DVD Review: The Sorcerers

Boris Karloff’s reputation took a bit of a hit in Ed Wood and Gods and Monsters. Bela Lugosi and James Whale mocked the horror icon as being a bit of a goof and not a great actor. Critics mock Karloff for appearing in so many bad movies towards the end of his life. The actor had to put food on the table. It’s not like Universal was cutting him fat royalty checks for Frankenstein in the ’60s. Karloff appeared in a few meaty projects before his death in 1969. Targets, Mad Monster Party, Die, Monster! Die! and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas added to his Frankenstein legacy. He wasn’t a relic of the past. The Sorcerers also ranks among his twilight best. He was allowed to create a new horror image in contemporary London. His neighbors think he’s a daffy old man promising to hypnotize people. Little do they know he’s got fierce power.

Karloff is Professor Marcus Monserret. He’s seen better days as his hypnotism has reduced him to putting adverts at tobacco shops. But he knows that things are going to get better with his scientific break through. He just needs to find the right subject to give it the complete test. He finds Ian Ogilvy (Witchfinder General), a disenchanted soul in swinging London. Karloff lures him into his new lab. He puts the guy in the seat to enjoy a psychedelic light and sound show. The result is Karloff creates a mental link with Ogilvy. He can take complete control of his test subject. What complicates matters is that Karloff’s wife (The Lady Vanishes‘s Catherine Lacey) also has control of Ogilvy. She’s ticked off at society and wants revenge using Ogilvy as a killer. She and Karloff have psychic battles inside Ogilvy.

This was the middle of the three films directed by Michael Reeves (Barbara Steele’s She Beast and Vincent Price’s Witchfinder General). Reeves overdosed at 25. Such a shame since he did understand how to scare with a texture. The Sorcerers has the richness of the kitchen sink dramas with a documentary feel to the image. He brings out the best elements of Karloff’s acting. In a sense Karloff has swapped roles so that he’s no longer the monster, but Dr. Frankenstein. He feels the pain of his creation going out of control. This Halloween season, you must schedule The Sorcerers during your Karloff movie night.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the gritty nature of the kitchen sink lighting. There is a nasty scratch at the end of the film, but it must have been a scratch in the camera since the end credits aren’t ruined. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels capture the rumble in Karloff’s voice.

There are no bonus features.

The Sorcerers is further proof that Boris Karloff could scare towards the end of his life. His battle with Catherine Lacey for control of Ian makes this essential viewing during Scary Season.

Warner Archive Collection presents The Sorcerers. Directed by: Michael Reeves. Screenplay by: Michael Reeves and Tom Baker. Starring: Boris Karloff, Catherine Lacey and Ian Ogivy. Running Time: 87 minutes. Released: September 30, 2012. Available at Amazon.com

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