Monday, May 28, 2012

Movie Monday: The Sorcerers

This week's Movie Monday selection is the 1967 British horror film The Sorcerers!

The Sorcerers opens with our star, the legendary Boris Karloff, looking a bit addled, wandering down a bust street. He enters a store, demanding to know where his "advertisement" is. The shopkeeper treats him dismissively, but after some badgering (and handing over some quid), the shopkeeper relents and puts Karloff's crudely typed ad back up in the window.
We see that this man is named Professor Montserrat, who specializes in hypnotism and cures for "anxiety." He returns home to his wife (Catherine Lacey), who is anxious for her husband to continue his experiments. The Professor tries to calm her by promising "soon, soon."

Montserrat heads out onto the Mod streets of England, and engages in conversation with a young man named Mike Roscoe (Ian Ogilvy), who goes back to Montserrat's flat mostly for a laugh (kicks, man, kicks). When he is shown the crazy contraption Montserrat has built, he is skeptical, but is promised "pure ecstasy" and dutifully submits himself.
Mike comes out of the experiment (involving a lot of crazy colors, Moog synthesizer music, etc.) more than a little dazed. They put Mike in the next room, and test out what the experiment is really about--controlling minds!

Via telepathy, both the Professor and his wife can seemingly control Mike's actions, having him pick up various objects just by "telling" him to do it. The experiment a success, they send Mike back out into the world, putting in a post-hypnotic suggestion that he won't remember anything that has happened.

Mike goes back out into the world, with the Professor and his wife peeking in at various moments. One night, Mike goes out with a beautiful girl named Nicole and they go to a quiet public pool, strip down, and jump in:
The Professor and Estelle peek into Mike's mind, and seem to really enjoy the vicarious thrill of the young man's life. But we already see the cracks in their relationship: the Professor wants to use this experiment to help people, the sick and the addled, enjoy the sweet experiences of life denied to them because of their circumstances. Estelle, more bitter, wants to keep it all to themselves, and use Mike to "enjoy themselves" for the time being. The Professor reluctantly goes along with this.

Estelle sees a mink coat in a shop window, something she never could afford before. She begs her husband to help her control Mike so he steals it for them, in the process abruptly leaving another date he had with Nicole. Estelle loves the thrill of what they had Mike do, but the Professor is deeply troubled. He made Estelle promise this was the only time they'd do this, but of course now that Estelle has gotten a taste, she only wants more. The Professor, seemingly putty in his wife's hands, goes along some more. Mike returns to Nicole's flat in a daze, not exactly sure what happened, and apologizes. Nicole accepts and Mike spends the night.

Estelle's next "trip" involves having Mike buy a motorcycle, and having him take it out onto the road, weaving wildly in and out of traffic. Nicole is along for the ride, and is terrorized--all the while the Professor and Estelle are positively enthralled!

When Mike brings Nicole back to the garage where he got it, a friend of theirs named Alan (who has a thing for Nicole), demands to know what the hell Mike was doing. Estelle, still in control, turns angry:
She orders Mike to attack Alan, and it gets out of control, leaving Alan a bloody mess and another man with a severe wound after Mike attacks him, as well. Mike awakes, again in a daze, with Nicole in shock and tears.

The Professor is horrified at what his wife has become, and Estelle quickly tells her husband she is in control. Kicking out his cane from under him, Estelle uses it to smash her husband's machine, guaranteeing he can never free Mike from her grip:
Mike turns to another girl, named Audrey, while Nicole comforts Alan. Estelle goes completely coo-coo for cocoa-puffs and has Mike stab Audrey to death, mainly for kicks. The half-conscious Professor "witnesses" all this, but is unable to stop it.

Estelle has Mike to a local hangout (where we get a lot of footage of a real-life band, Lee Grant and The Captiols, running through a couple of their numbers), where he picks up another woman. While growing hesitant, the girl goes along with Mike as he takes her down a dark alley:
Mike demands that she "sing, sing for us", strangling the girl to death. The murder makes the papers, and Alan tells Nicole he thinks Mike is the murderer. Nicole, despite all she has seen, still can't believe it.

Back at their flat, Estelle is enjoying torturing her husband--feeding him just enough to keep him alive, so he can continue "competing" against her for the control of Mike. When the Professor slaps a plate of food away, Estelle screams at him in a rage, insisting she can control Mike all on her own, even without her husband.

Alan and Nicole visit Mike's flat, but it's empty. They find him at work (at an antiques store with the unfortunate name "The Glory Hole"), while the police start to close in on Mike as the killer--since he was last seen with the murdered girl. Alan confronts Mike, saying he's the killer--right at the moment Estelle takes control again:
Mike stabs Alan, and takes off. The police give chase, with the Professor using every last ounce of energy to take control of Mike, and in the battle between him and Estelle, Mike crashes his car, and it bursts into flames. The finally catch up, and Nicole begins to sob. But what happened to Estelle and the Professor?

Well, it turns out their experiment wasn't entirely a one-way street: as we watch Mike's car explode and burn, we see that Estelle and the Professor have suffered the same fate:
sg we gaze upon a crispy-fried Boris Karloff, we reach The End.

I had never seen The Sorcerers before, and I was pleasantly surprised. The plot is different, and it's fun watching Karloff (for once), not be the ultimate heavy (despite what the poster says). Catherine Lacey does a great job playing the batty Estelle, as she goes from eccentric to dishonest to downright murderous.

Karloff's physical limitations brought on by age are obvious here: other than the opening scene where he's walking along the street, he spends the entire movie sitting down, barely moving. The great man was only two years away from his death, but for some reason he just kept on working, ending his career with a couple of truly dreadful, really Z-grade movies; I'm happy to say The Sorcerers, while no masterpiece, is definitely a cut above. There's a little (okay, a lot) too much footage of British hippies Fruging or whatever, the soundtrack at times is too goofy and lighthearted, and some scenes could be trimmed a bit, but otherwise it's not a bad little movie.

This week's Movie Monday was recommended by my friend Joseph Brian Scott, who sent me a link to the whole movie, now up on YouTube!


Caffeinated Joe said...

Sounds quite interesting! I had never heard of this film. Karloff is one of my favorite actors, so I'll have to sit and watch this some time.

rob! said...

Like I said, its no masterpiece but if you're a Karloff fan its a fun little potboiler. And at 82 or so minutes, it doesn't wear out its welcome.

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