Yes, I thought it was quite good.
The Sorcerers (1967) Directed by Michael Reeves
This seems to be a relative unknown amongst anyone I've asked.
Has anyone here seen this low budget Sci-Fi / Horror, starring Boris Karloff?
Yes, I thought it was quite good.
Old favourite of mine, any film that has two old boilers tripping/murdering via a telepathy headset has got to be a 'must see' flick. One of Karloffs finest performances(from the tailend of his career) along with Bogdanovich's much underrated Targets.
It's a great shame that Michael Reeves died at such a young age.
It also has old Britmovie favourite Susan George as precocious jailbait so it has lots going for it.
And Susan George is in it!
Yep, love this. It's a cracker!
Right then, that'll be all I need to know.(Wolfgang @ Mar 2 2006, 11:49 AM)
It also has old Britmovie favourite Susan George as precocious jailbait
It's on the list.
Agreed - it's a belter. Brilliant concept and Ian Ogilvy's not half bad in it (even he admits he wasn't the world's greatest actor !) The show is stolen, however, by Catherine Lacey's excellent descent into madness whilst Karloff tries to remain sane, scientific and honourable.(mysteriesofedgarwallace @ Mar 2 2006, 04:44 PM)
Yep, love this. It's a cracker!
Hi there.(smudge @ Mar 2 2006, 06:52 PM)
Agreed - it's a belter. Brilliant concept and Ian Ogilvy's not half bad in it (even he admits he wasn't the world's greatest actor !) The show is stolen, however, by Catherine Lacey's excellent descent into madness whilst Karloff tries to remain sane, scientific and honourable.
I know that this was primarily a Tigon production but wasn't Raquel Welch's production company Curtwell involved with this as well? I remember reading an interview in Shivers magazine a few years ago (I believe with Tony Tenser) that Welch actually did most of the production chores on the picture including working out budgets and schedules, etc. Am I remembering this correctly? I also seem to recall that Curtwell were working on another project with Reeves which would eventually end up as Alan Gibson's Crescendo over at Hammer. Anyone back me up on this?
The club used in this film was Blaises Club, Queen's Gate, Kensington, Hendrix played it in 66, many other bands and artists also played the same spot in the late 60's, sadly its gone now though.
The following is a homage to the film The Sorcerers made by Michael Reeves. Karloff stalking the streets of sixties London still manages to look dark and menacing and Catherine Lacey as his wife is superb. What a shame we lost Michael at such an early age but what a legacy he left with this film and with Witchfinder General...
Director Michael Reeves made this excellent movie, on a shoestring budget. It’s a superb example of what can be achieved if you have a talented director, quality acting, an inspired script and skilfully staged sets. Before the credits role we are treated to the sight of Boris Karloff, who plays the retired medical hypnotist, Professor Marcus Montserrat We see him walking with the aid of a stick, down a dingy London street. He steps in to a tobacconist, after viewing the postcard ads in the glass case outside. The shopkeeper (Martin Terry) is curt and rude to Montsarrat, whereupon the professor strikes his stick down on a pile of newspapers lying on the counter saying, “Where is my advertisement young man?” It turns out that Estelle Montsarrat (Catherine Lacey), wife to Marcus, has not paid the fee for the ad to be displayed. The ad reads ‘DR MARCUS MONTSERRAT, PRACTITIONER OF MEDICAL HYPNOSIS, STAMMERING, SELFCONSCIOUSNESS, ANXIETY, PAINLESSLY CURED. Montsarrat pays the fee and returns home, where Estelle has prepared them a meal. At first glance they are a sweet old couple in their twilight years, but there is a secret behind a door in their flat which will lead them in to a wild and dangerous world. Their flat is dreary and poorly lit, this pronounced feature adds greatly to the shadowy atmosphere, the reclusive life lived by the pair and the subsequent strange activities on which they embark. There is one room though, which is different, it has bright white walls and is filled with scientific equipment. It contains Professor Montsarrat’s new invention, which now needs to be tested on a human being.
As the credits begin to roll we are taken to a sixties music club, where Mike Roscoe (Ian Ogilvy), his French girlfriend Nicole (Elizabeth Ercy) and their mutual mate Alan (Victor Henry) are trying to enjoy themselves. It’s not easy though as Mike is bored and decides to take off on his own and get a Wimpy. Ogilvy is good as the smartly dressed, seriously brylcreemed, disaffected young man. Normally a well-spoken actor, his working class London accent is a little strained at times but it works well enough. Professor Montsarrat is out prowling the dark streets looking for a willing subject for his experiment. He accosts Mike in the Wimpy and tells him, “I could offer you an unusual evening, some extraordinary experiences.” After being initially suspicious he agrees to go back to the flat. As they leave we see the grill attendant slap a red uncooked burger on to the grill, symbolic perhaps of the naïve Mike who via Montsarrat’s experiment is about to undergo a radical transformation.
When they arrive back at the gloomy flat, Mike meets the seemingly innocuous Estelle. They lead him in to the white room and sit him in a special chair, attaching wires to his head. Mike asks them what it all does and Marcus and Estelle reply, “Dazzling, indescribable experiences, complete abandonment with no thought of remorse, intoxication with no hangover, ecstasy with no consequence.” Speakers, lights and control panels surround Mike. Marcus pulls switches and turns knobs and Mike is subjected to a barrage of psychedelic colour and sound. This is the ultimate electronic trip, but like its chemical equivalent LSD often did, it will turn out to be a bad trip. The process has rendered Mike’s mind susceptible to telepathic messages from Montsarrat and Estelle; they can make him do things at a distance, though he has no memory of the events afterwards. Estelle through thought alone, commands him to go in to the kitchen, take an egg from the fridge and break it in his hand. They are both amazed that they experience the same physical sensations that Mike is feeling. They send him away to see if they can control him at a distance and succeed in getting him to take his girlfriend to a swimming pool which is closed for the night. Estelle and Marcus seated in their barely lit room around a circular table covered with a faded floral pattern cloth, revel in the sensations they feel as Mike and Nicole plunge in to the pool.
At this stage a divergence begins to occur between Marcus and Estelle. Marcus wants to use his invention for the benefit of others; Estelle quickly and diabolically realises that many experiences hitherto denied her can now be realised. We clearly see the polarisation of good and evil embodied respectively in Marcus and Estelle. The definition of magic in occult terms is, ‘the ability to cause change by the exercise of the will.’ This fits in well with the films title ‘The Sorcerers’, as these two are practising an ancient art, albeit using modern methods. They also work their magic upon a round table, which could be seen as representing the traditional magic circle used by ceremonial magicians. Marcus is appalled by Estelle’s selfish desires but allows her to force Mike to steal a fur coat she has been coveting. Mike does this but cuts his hand in the robbery. Marcus and Estelle are both surprised when they simultaneously suffer cuts in exactly the same place, on their hands. An excellent musical sore by Paul Ferris, which adds to the films growing tension, is especially effective in the robbery scene. In another sequence Estelle causes Mike to take Alan’s motorcycle and drive it at high speed through the countryside. Estelle becomes increasingly aroused as the bikes speed increases, her excitement escalating to an almost orgasmic climax. Marcus pleads with Estelle telling her that what she is doing is wrong. She replies saying; “We all want to do things deep down inside ourselves, things we can’t allow ourselves to do. But now we have the means to do these things, without the fear of the consequences.” Realising that she is out of control Marcus pleads that they must bring Mike back and reverse the process but Estelle already addicted to the excesses she experiences through Mike, knocks Karloff to the ground, injuring him. She then enters the white room and using her husband’s walking stick smashes the equipment to bits. Karloff spends the rest of the film, lying on the floor, propped up against the sideboard. Estelle’s transformation from quiet, subservient, old lady, in to malevolent, voracious monster is now complete. From here she consolidates her evil credentials by commanding Mike to kill two women. One of these, Audrey an ex-girlfriend of Mike, is played by Susan George.
Suffering from regular blackouts and memory loss, Ogilvy’s character is becoming increasingly worried. Unfortunately he is in an unredeemable situation. The police in the form of a detective played by Peter Fraser are on to him. Mike is tracked down but manages to escape in a car and is pursued by the police in a high-speed chase. Back at the Montserrat's flat Estelle is following and actually controlling Mike, but she has been drinking heavily. Marcus realises that her resistance is low and his will is stronger than hers. Like two ancient magicians in a battle of wills they fight for control of Mike. Marcus is stronger than Estelle and decides on the ultimate solution. Remembering the cuts to their hands from the robbery, he causes Mike to crash the car. Mikes injured and bleeding body is seen through the opened door of the upturned car. Estelle and Marcus experience all the shock and pain of the crash. The car catches fire and explodes with no hope of a rescue. In the final scene we are back at the flat, Marcus is still leaning against the sideboard; Estelle is lying across the table. Both are dead and severely burnt.
A lot of the film is shot either in the dark dimly lit flat, or in murky London streets. Estelle and Marcus are almost always seen huddled around the table. They are a couple who dwell in the shadows and Estelle has fast become a dedicated voyeur who can only find pleasure and thrills through the experiences of Mike. Catherine Lacey’s deeply lined face, effectively catches the light in the scenes set in the flat and becomes more menacing and monstrous as she progressively gives in to her basest desires. Her performance is commanding and masterly and is easily deserving of a dozen Oscars. Karloff’s role is equally praiseworthy; he brings a gentle, though formidable presence to the screen. The use of light or rather the absence of light is utilised to great effect, especially the scenes in the flat where Marcus and Estelle practise their manipulation of Mike. The minimal lighting illuminates and highlights their faces, forcing the viewer to focus on the interplay between the two. In lesser hands this would be a silly film, but the calibre of the performers and the inspired direction from Reeves elevate it to the status of a classic.
The scene I especially like is the one were having lured Mike (Ian Ogilvy) back to their flat, Marcus (Boris Karloff) and Estelle (Catherine Lacey), sit Mike in the special chair, which is part of the hypnotic device that they earnestly desire to test on their newly found guinea pig. Before they commence Mike asks what the equipment will do for him, Marcus replies, “Dazzling, indescribable experiences, complete abandonment with no thought of remorse.” Catherine then utters the following words, “Intoxication with no hangover, ecstasy with no consequence. The old couple seem to grow both in stature and power as they make these eloquent statements, whilst standing over the naive and vulnerable Mike.
There is a scene early on in the film in a cavern style sixties club. Mikes girlfriend Nicole (Elizabeth Ercy) wants to dance, but he is not in the mood. Mikes mate Alan (Victor Henry) offers to dance with Nicole and follows her on to the dance floor. This is a big mistake. First of all Alan is very short, this on its own is not a major problem, but to make matters worse he is wearing a tweed jacket and a tie. The final nail in the coffin of cool is when Alan attempts to dance. His total lack of coordination and obvious lack of concern for his personal dignity make this the dodgiest moment in the film.
Theatrical release was in 1967.
John Burke wrote the novel from which the film was derived.
He also wrote two volumes of stories based on Hammer films and a novel derived from the Amicus film, ‘Dr Terrors House of Horrors’.
The film was a Tigon – Curtwell - Global production and was filmed at West London Studios and on location.
Karloff, whose real name was William Henry Pratt was born in London on 23rd of November 1887 and died in Midhurst, West Sussex, England from a respiratory infection on the 2nd of February 1969.
Catherine Lacey appeared in the 1967 Hammer film The Mummies Shroud as the mystic Haiti.
Susan George played the part of Amy Sumner in the 1971 film Straw Dogs.
Due to a mixture of sex and violence deemed unacceptable by the BBFC it was placed on the video nasties list and for a long time was banned from release on video in the UK.
© Mark Emery 2007
Nice article Mark. My only problem with the film was how do a couple of pensioners construct a laboratory in from what I recall was a pretty small terrace house. Had it been a largish house tucked away on the outskirts of London it might have had a bit more credibilty.
Welcome to the site.
Really interesting piece, thank you.
Thanks Steve... I must watch it again now to view the ‘house outside’ and the ‘house inside’ dichotomy.Originally Posted by DB7
Any chance of me pleading it as a forerunner of the Tardis effect?
Good to be here!
Many thanks Bats!Originally Posted by batman
Forgive me if this has been mentioned elsewhere…
The Michael Reeves 1967 film The Sorcerers is on BBC2 tonight at 2am
If you like British Horror and have not seen it then record this rarely aired film.
There is a masterly performance by Boris Karloff in a late 1960s London setting but the star of the show is Catherine Lacey who gives a towering performance… Ian Ogilvy is also a central character and there is an appearance by Susan George…
Not to be missed!
I agree. Catherine Lacey is very good in this and it's always a pleasure to see Boris Karloff.Originally Posted by Mandragora
Fully agree. Great film and highly recommended.
I like this film (agree with all the comments regarding Catherine Lacey's superb performance) but to say that The Sorcerers is rarely aired is a bit of an understatement as it was only broadcast on BBC2 last year and I believe it also surfaced on DVD (but that may now be OOP).Originally Posted by Mandragora
Laughably bad film poorly photographed and directed and a shame to see Boris Karloff in such junk. This, and Michael Reeves' follow-up film Witchfinder General are hopelessly overrated.