THE NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (1974)
Director: Amando de Ossorio
BCI Eclipse/Deimos

Spanish horror film director Amando de Ossorio gained a place in the hearts of horror fans worldwide with his quartet of “Blind Dead” movies. Eerie, atmospheric and exploitive, the films were a highlight in a career of genre ups and downs (DEMON WITH CHILD and THE SEA SERPENT are prime examples of the downs). THE NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (known in Spain as “La Noche de los Brujos”) uses successful elements from the “Blind Dead” series, mixed with generous doses of blood and breasts and an overall delirious attitude which makes it an absolute gem of European trash horror cinema, even if it might be so on a guilty pleasure level.

In 1910 Africa, a missionary woman (Barbara King aka Bárbara Rey) s taken captive by a voodoo tribe. They rape her, strip her of her clothes with a bullwhip and decapitate her, only to have the head reattached to the body, which then takes the form of a bloodsucking vampire with large canine fangs. The tribe is shot by a troop of soldiers, but many years later, as a new research team mounts a safari in the same location, the macabre shenanigans begin again. Professor Jonathan Grant (Jack Taylor), macho hunter Rod Carter (Simon Andreau), two gorgeous blondes Elisabeth (Maria Kosti) and Carol (Loli Tovar), and an exotic mulatto woman, Tunika (Kali Hansa) are the bickering group of campers now facing unknown, supernatural dangers deep within the jungle. The native tribe, sleeping for decades, rise from the dead and have sights on turning some fresh women into demon/witch/leopard/vampire creatures who stalk by moonlight.

THE NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS is the kind of film that can’t be taken seriously like some of Spain’s other exemplary genre works, but it’s hard to find a better-paced, more enjoyable exercise in sensationalism of its kind. It can’t decide what kind of horror movie it wants to be, so vampirism, voodoo, possession and the walking dead are all tossed in like a big salad, and a very tasty one at that. The film is also not afraid to spill blood or allow for some kinky sadism, notably in repeated rituals where pretty women have their blouses literally whipped off so that the lashes across their ample breasts could be exposed before further pandemonium occurs in the form of a wicked ceremony – their heads are hacked off, the natives dance around and feast on the flowing bread, followed by the head self-rolling back on the neck to reveal a very sexy vampire woman!

The sexy vampire women (King, Tovar and Kosti) are a sight to behold, and a large part of what gives this film such a cult appeal. All of them are extremely shapely and attractive, with their long canines, big hairdos and extended fingernails. But the icing on the cake is their attire: a leopard skin bikini top, grass skirt bikini bottom and a leopard skin cape (the image of them running and stalking their victims in slow motion is also reflective of the “Blind Dead” series). American-born Euro star Jack Taylor needs no introduction, but you’ll also recognize Simon Andreau as the husband in THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE and countless other exploitation films. Maria Kosti (or “Kosty” as it’s sometimes spelled) was often cast in Paul Naschy films (VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES, A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE, EXORCISM) and was the lead in de Ossorio’s last “Blind Dead” entry, NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS. Barbara King would show up as blonde lesbian in the third “Blind Dead” film, THE GHOST GALLEON (aka HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES), Loli Tovar was the girl who discovered their undead horses in the second entry, RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD, and she too was a fixture in 1970 Spanish horror. Another exotic beauty, Kali Hansa will be a familiar face (and familiar body) to Jess Francophiles for her appearances in THE PEVERSE COUNTESS and several other of the director’s sexploitation epics.

Most U.S. viewers were introduced to this film via television, as it was released here straight to that medium in a heavily truncated version by Avco Embassy. Bootlegs of a Japanese VHS release have been the easiest way to see the film at full strength, but here BCI presents it on DVD for the first time, complete and uncut, with a very satisfying transfer. The image is presented full frame (open matte), and compositions actually look very good. Since this was transferred from the original negative, the picture is very clean and sharp, with excellent detail and bright colors, and outdoor scenes are easily discernible. There are two audio options here; the Spanish (Castillian) mono track, and the more familiar English dubbed track in mono. One minor complaint is that the English track is slightly off sync, but since this is a post-dubbed affair, most viewers won’t even notice. Optional English subtitles are also included.

Extras include an English language international trailer, the Spanish main and end title sequences, a section of alternate “clothed” scenes (some which still manage to reveal some glimpses of female nudity), including stuff which was inserted in the U.S. television version. This section goes on to show a series of “Alternate edits and differences sourced from various international versions.” Here you’ll see slight differences in various edits, yet another alternate title sequence, scenes that used negative-exposure to blanket some of the nudity and violence during the voodoo dance (seen in most previous TV and video incarnations), as well as a clip from the Japanese tape which optically censors some brief below-the-belt female nudity. A still gallery of poster and pressbook art, video covers and photos concludes the bonus materials. Mirek Lipinski scribes the inside booklet’s liner notes, which provides informative biographical information on de Ossorio, as well as other details about the film and its various versions.

For more on this movie, check out THE NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS Website. (George R. Reis)

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