In his circus days, Appellate Judge Tom Becker could spin three sorcerers while juggling five apples.
He turns them on…he turns them off…to live…love…die…or KILL!
Elderly "medical hypnotist" Professor Marcus Monseratt (Boris Karloff, Bride of Frankenstein) has lived in disgrace for the past 30 years, after a series of newspaper articles mocked him and cast doubt on his credibility. He and his wife, Estelle (Catherine Lacey, The Servant), live in a modest flat in London, having "done without" for so many years.
But Marcus has something that might finally garner some acclaim: an invention that allows people to live vicariously through others, to feel what someone else feels and experience what someone else is experiencing. Marcus believes this will be a boon to the sick and elderly who cannot travel and have adventures on their own, but who will be able to enjoy the sensations of such things through a presumably younger designee.
To test the device, Marcus entices young Mike Roscoe (Ian Oglivy, Waterloo) to come to the apartment. Mike gets "the treatment"—and it's a success! Not only can Marcus and Estelle vicariously experience everything Mike is experiencing, but they can control his actions, as well, without him knowing about it. Anything Mike does while under the influence of the old couple becomes a blackout.
Marcus is eager to present his invention to the world so it can be beneficial—but Estelle, who has stayed by his side and lived in poverty for decades, wants to have some fun first.
And "fun" for Estelle means using the zombified Mike for any number of perverse and nefarious activities.
The Sorcerers was the second of three films credited to the talented Michael Reeves (1943-1969), the other two being She Beast and Witchfinder General. While The Sorcerers doesn't reach the heights of Reeves' Witchfinder General, his masterpiece, it's an effectively haunting film that combines a bit of horror and a bit of sci-fi into an unnerving and twisted little morality drama.
Reeves gives us an intriguing story and complex characters with plausible motivations. Marcus wants to do good as a doctor; while monetary gain is certainly an attractive possibility, Marcus is more interested in redeeming his reputation.
Estelle, on the other hand, is bitter about her years of doing without—besides, it's not her reputation that needs redeeming. She's not a venal person—at least, not initially—just greedy and ultimately careless.
While Mike is off doing the dirty deeds imparted in his head by Estelle, the older couple bicker, sometimes bitterly, and The Sorcerers becomes kind of a low-rent horror version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the exchanges becoming increasingly nastier and more dangerous. Naturally, as things go on, Estelle's wishes become darker, and Marcus finds himself struggling to contain her.
The story's a bit slight, but Karloff and Lacey hold it together. As Estelle, veteran British actress Lacey crafts a wonderfully nuanced portrait of a woman slowly losing her grip on reality, starting out excited and purposeful before descending into poison.
Then there's Karloff. By this point, of course, he was pretty much a brand, and merely putting his name in the credits determined a product as a horror movie, and the actor wasn't above "phoning it in," particularly with projects that didn't require much effort. But Karloff's not coasting here; alternately sinister and touching, he shines in this role, one of the few substantial parts to come his way this late in his career. Had this not been a genre film, it might have spurred interest in giving Karloff more serious roles—King Lear, for instance. Unfortunately, with the exception of Targets, Karloff's final appearances were in projects beneath his talents.
While the young cast members aren't as interesting as the elders, they still acquit themselves nicely, including Ogilvy as the beleaguered pawn Mike and Victor Henry (Privilege) as his jovial friend. A young Susan George (Mandingo) turns up as another of Mike's friends.
The Sorcerers comes to us courtesy of Warner Archive, which means zero supplements and zero restoration. While the image is pretty spotty, it's acceptable, as is the mono audio track.
While the disc isn't deluxe, The Sorcerers is a pretty great little cult item.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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