Director: Michael Reeves
Warner Archive Collection

The second feature from the late British auteur Michael Reeves also represents the best of Boris Karloff's final film work (along with Peter Bogdonavich's TARGETS). The effort is a splendid mix of horror and sci-fi themes manifested into a unique screenplay by Reeves, Tom Baker (not the "Dr. Who" actor) and John Burke. The direction by the ambitious but doomed young filmmaker is cutting-edge, and the character performances from actors young and old are solid. THE SORCERERS finally makes its U.S. DVD debut courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection.

The elder Karloff plays Professor Montserrat, an inventive but disgraced hypnotist who has developed a mind-control technique that will allow him to experience the sensation of his chosen subject. Bored by sipping sodas with his beautiful French bird (the lovely Elizabeth Ercy) at a swinging 1960s nightclub, Mike Roscoe (a baby-faced Ian Ogilvy, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS) nonchalantly agrees to be the old man's guinea pig. Roscoe is escorted to a gadget-filled white room in the back of the otherwise normal looking middle class flat. After some harried psychedelic conditioning, the influenced Roscoe is unleashed into the streets of London, and Montserrat and his wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey, Hammer’s THE MUMMY’S SHROUD) immediately indulge in the experiment's success.

The elderly couple is now able to influence the young man's actions, as well as live vicariously through him, feeling all that he feels. After coaxing Roscoe into a soothing late-night swim with his girl, Montserrat wants to report his brainchild and put it to good use, but his wife has other plans. After years of dreary modest living, she takes it upon herself to exploit the dominance over Roscoe, propelling him to steal an expensive fur, indulge in a high-speed motorbike ride, initiate bloody brawls with his best friend (Victor Henry, PRIVILEGE) and eventually the murder of two girls (an ex girlfriend played by a very young Susan George and Dani Sheridan's mini-skirted pop singer). Estelle easily overbears her husband, and her malicious behavior causes him to grow weaker, eventually strapping him to the floor while the situation becomes totally out of hand.

Surely Karloff has had meatier roles than this, but his performance in THE SORCERERS is one that shouldn't be overlooked (as it often is). His interplay with the sometimes scene-stealing Lacey is precious. Lacey's "wicked witch" thrill-seeking hag perfectly compliments Karloff as the rational yet wearied inventor who finally succeeds but is effortlessly brought down by her unexpected betrayal. Ogilvy is also great as the pawn in their experiment, drawn into dangerous manipulation that seems to prey on the character's own worst instincts and draws him to eventual ruin. Reeves' second feature film endeavor is an essential part of an impeccable terror trio that would conclude with his farewell masterpiece — WITCHFINDER GENERAL (THE CONQUEROR WORM).

Produced by Tony Tenser's Tigon Films, THE SORCERERS was released in the U.S. by Allied Artists and later showed up on VHS through the company's short-lived video company. As rare as that cassette is, the transfer was terrible and badly censored (even though the film is not overly-graphic in the least). When Warner Bros. took over the AA film catalog, THE SORCERERS showed up uncut on cable TV. It then resurfaced as PAL DVD a decade ago by the UK company Metrodome, but this Warner Archive Collection release is the first time it’s been made available on DVD in this country. The Warner manufactured-on-demand disc is actually a considerable improvement over the PAL Metrodome release, as colors are far bolder and better saturated. Letterboxed at 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement, no digital clean-up has been done, so the print source still has its share of nicks and specs, but its still a pleasing image, with the grain and picture darkness witnessed in the PAL release not being a problem at all here. The mono English audio track is very impressive, with clear dialog mixed well with Paul Ferris' hip, progressive score. As expected, there no extras to be had (the PAL disc included a Reeves documentary, a trailer and a few other text supplements). (George R. Reis)