Thursday, April 16, 2015

'The Sorcerers' is a creepy 1960s film of mind control

By Doug Gibson

The "The Sorcerers" is a bit dated with its setting in the supposedly "mod" 1967 London, but it's nevertheless a fascinating cult film that continues to gain in acclaim almost 50 years after its release.

It's one of Boris Karloff's last films, and while the star, he's not the chief villain. That role, surprisingly, goes to his co-star, the also elderly Catherine Lacey, and boy is she creepy and evil. 

OK, here's the plot: Karloff plays Professor Marcus Monserrat who lives in a cheap, hovel-like home with his wife, Estelle. They seem to be decent folks but they have a dark secret; the professor was shunned by his colleagues and reduced to poverty due to his eccentric theories. 

Nevertheless, they are plugging along with their mind-control theories, extending the research to not only controlling another person, but vicariously experiencing the sensations, emotions and physical effects of what their subject goes through.

Eventually, a young, handsome twenty-something named Mike Roscoe, played by a young Ian Ogilvy, becomes their chief guinea pig. They have success with him and can control his mind and experience what he experiences.

Now the film comes to its interesting twist; that it's done so well is thanks to director Michael Reeves, only 23 when this film was shot. Reeves was a major talent who could elicit strong unpleasant performances out of actors; he directed "Witchfinder General," starring Vincent Price in arguably his most evil role.

While a viewer might expect Karloff to become the baddie of the couple, Reeves has Mrs. Monserrat, the elderly Lacey, go off her rocker and become evil. Long-denied any luxuries or even economic peace of mind; she becomes addicted to the sensations that Mike Roscoe is experiencing, and pushes him to crime and even murder. When her husband tries to stop her, Lacey's character physically overpowers Karloff's character, and she keeps her husband as a wounded slave.

This is a dark film but a fascinating one. One wishes that the current crop of "torture-porn" films that come out of Hollywood could try to emulate the low-budget atmosphere and terror of "The Sorcerers." A very young Susan George is a murder victim in this London-helmed film. According to gossip I have heard, Karloff encouraged the idea of his wife's character being the villain. Rumor has it Lacey was not happy with her role, but she performed marvelously.

For a long time this film was difficult to find; it was more talked about than seen. However, in recent years it has received an all-region DVD release and I recntly caught it on Turner Classic Movies. A good Michael Reeves double feature for cult movie fans would be this film paired with "Witchfinder General."

Watch the trailer for "The Sorcerers," from Tigon Productions, below:

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