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The Sorcerers (1967)

Directed by Michael Reeves
Written by Reeves and Tom Baker
From an Idea by John Burke
Details at the IMDB, US.IMDB

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth.
Oh, never mind.
You will not understand
The power and beauty of your youth 
Until they've faded.
- Mary Schmich, "Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young"

 

Preface

In previous articles, I've made references to the three metallic ages of B movies.  Before getting to this article's feature attraction, a little history on those ages may be helpful for understanding this movie's place in B movie history.

During the 1930's through '40's, the major studios owned most of the means of distribution for their films.  There were a few minor studios that cranked out lesser movies.  Some of the majors made cheap movies on sets left over from their prestige productions.  In those days, the multi-bill was common, giving you about two features plus a couple of shorts for the price of your admission.  The lesser features were often shown with a major studio's premium picture.  And thus it was in the Iron Age of B.

But at the close of the '40's, legislation made the major studios give up the means of distribution.  Ironically, it was at this point that the term "B movie" was coined.  The change in distribution, coupled with the post World War II boom in the United States, led to the rise of several minor studios.  Some of these did quite well because they had a better feel for their audiences and were willing and able to take a few more chances than their competition among the majors.  And thus it was in the Golden Age of B.  It lasted for about fifteen years.

The Golden Age segued into the Silver Age of B.  During the '60's, the West began a period of self examination and reinvention.  Films became more daring.  Pessimistic endings were common.  Movies were rated for potentially objectionable content instead of outlawing all content that might be considered objectionable.  This allowed some filmmakers to do, say, and show things that were impossible before, although the artistic and entertainment values of movies made with this new freedom was debatable from movie to movie.  In many theaters, B movies became the sole feature; mostly the drive-ins, not the theaters, continued the multi-bill tradition.

The Sorcerers was made at in the brutal Silver dawn, yet starred a gentle man of Iron.
 

Contents

 

The Plot (Intentionally Incomplete)

The Magical Mystery Tour

We open with an elderly man (Boris Karloff) walking down the street, favoring his pace with a simple cane.  He enters a tobacconist's and asks the proprietor (Martin Terry) where his advertisement is.  At first, the tobacconist is not interested, but the angry oldster bangs his cane on the counter.  Realizing which advertisement the old man is talking about, the shopkeeper tells him that people didn't seem interested in his services and he's behind on his payment for display.  The old man pays up.  The tobacconist makes a crude suggestion about the elderly man's sex life.

The advertisement goes back into the display case out front.  It's a crudely typed card that reads,


* DR. M A R C U S  M O N S E R R A T * 
==============
PRACTITIONER OF MEDICAL HYPNOSIS
STAMMERING; SELF CONSCIOUSNESS
ANXIETY  PAINLESSLY CURED
CALL GRI 8284      9.30 TO 6.00.pm.

Dr. Monserrat goes home.  His wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey) greets him.  They laugh about the problem with the tobacconist.  While his wife serves him lunch, Dr. Monserrat opens a door and quietly peeks inside the next room.  We are treated to an ominous tone.  His wife asks when it be ready.  Soon, he says.  Tomorrow, she asks.  Yes, he says.  All they need is a subject.  They sit at a table and hold hands.

Jump cut to a '60's style dance club at night with the opening credits (yellow italic Britannic) superimposed on dark shots of dancers and general partiers.  After the credits finish, we join a photogenic Michael Roscoe (Ian Ogilvy), an astonishingly well rounded redhead Nicole (Elizabeth Ercy), and "nice guy" Alan (Victor Henry).  They're sitting in a booth, making with the bright patter.  Nicole says she wants to dance but Michael doesn't feel like it.  Alan takes Nicole up on her offer and off they go onto the dance floor.  Michael sits in the booth motionless, watching Nicole dance.  He is completely absorbed by her movements.  Well, completely absorbed until a blonde walks by.

"Well, you can tell by the way
I use my walk,
I'm a woman's man:
no time to talk."
Now cover your left eye and read the bottom line.

Back at Dr. Monserrat's place, the dubious doctor comes out of the mystery room and tells Estelle "it" is ready to be tested tonight.  They need to find someone, preferably a stranger with a pliable mind.  Estelle suggests a drunk, but Dr. Monserrat wants a bright subject with clear perceptions.  (Pliable, bright, clear perceptions?  Is there a military academy around here?)  Then it occurs to them that there are plenty of bored young people on the streets taking speed to keep awake.  One of those will do nicely.  Dr. Monserrat is excited; Estelle, even more so.

At the dance club, Nicole and Alan rejoin Michael at the booth.  After some more bright banter, Michael leads them out of the dance club to go to dinner.  Michael goes outside first.  After a while, Alan comes out and tells him that Nicole is combing her toenails or some such primping that men wouldn't understand.  Michael and Alan talk about waiting for the right girl, who, apparently, would have fabulously combed toenails.  However, Michael is profoundly bored and restless.  He tells Alan to take Nicole to dinner because he needs some time to himself.  Alan protests because Nicole is the other guys' girl.  Michael says she's not really his girlfriend and walks away.

Later, Michael goes to a late night restaurant.  Dr. Monserrat enters and accosts him, explaining that he'd been following him.  Michael is understandably suspicious.  The elderly stranger tells the young man that he's offering him an unusual experience.  After Michael tells the old man that he's not interested in blue movies or cheap hash, Dr. Monserrat promises something more interesting and observes that the young man has got nothing better to do just now.  (And that, my droogs, was the selling point.)

Estelle meets Michael when Dr. Monserrat brings him home.  Michael begins to have second thoughts about coming here for thrill seeking.  They show him the mystery room.

It's completely done in sterile white, with various tape players, a slide projector, and a large control console.  (There's also the subtle sound of a heart beat in the background, so either this is supposed to be creepy or the neighbor has the bass up too high on the stereo.)  In the center is a chair with various dangling wires and headphones mounted on set of rods.  While Michael makes a few wisecracks about all the equipment, Dr. Monserrat tells him that for over forty years, he was a leader in the field of medical hypnosis.  And now, he and his wife have taken his technique to things unimagined.  (I dunno.  Michael could probably imagine a lot.)

Estelle tells Michael to sit in the chair.  The young man glibly protests that he's too young to die.  But the doctor reminds him he wanted something new, and this is it.  Estelle sweetens the pitch by smoothly explaining that this will be happiness with no guilt and ecstasy with no hangover.  (Heh, none of that "What is in the box?" "Pain is in the box." sales pitch here.)  So Michael gets into the chair.  Dr. Monserrat and Estelle adjust the mounted headphones over his ears.  The arrangement holds his head in place.  Then the elderly doctor pulls out a dental pick and asks Michael, "Is it safe?"  Nah, just kidding.  However, he does tell the man in the chair to relax.

Nicole and Michael (left) play "guess whose foot" with Alan  Unlike the Ear Hair Trimmer, Remington's Ear Wax Vacuum never really sold well.

Dr. Monserrat and Estelle begin flicking switches.  The room goes dark.  Several weird, whistling sound effects begin to play.  Light panels flash.  The slide projector turns on.  A psychedelic pattern flashes on Michael's face.  The camera takes a few unusual angles and zooms.  (In other words, this is "freaking out" before it became a fashionable late sixties/early seventies cliché.)  During all this, the doctor and his assistant continue franticly flipping switches and twisting knobs on the control console.

After a while, the high-tech hypnotists are satisfied with the result.  They turn off the machines and turn on the lights.  Michael seems unaffected by the experience.  They ask him to go back to the living room, telling him they'll be out shortly.
 

Long Distance is the Next Best Thing to Being There

As soon as their guest is in the next room, Dr. Monserrat says quietly, "Close the door."  Michael does so.  Estelle and her husband are excited.  They can control his mind.  Quickly, they think of something else to test this and, through telepathy, tell Michael to go into the kitchen.  He does this.  

They try to think of something else.  Estelle suggests picking up an egg from the the refrigerator.  As Michael reaches for for it, Estelle quickly specifies third from the left.  Michael counts it out and picks it up.  Now what?  "Break the egg!" shouts Estelle excitedly.  Michael crushes it in his hand.  Dr. Monserrat and Estelle suddenly look at their hands in surprise.  They can feel the wetness of the crushed egg..  (Yif!  Good thing they didn't suggest anything with the stove.)  Then Michael rinses his hand under the kitchen faucet.  The hypnotists stare at their hands in disbelief.  Whatever their subject experiences, they will subjectively experience.

Dr. Monserrat decides he wants to test this at a greater distance.  He and Estelle go to Michael, who apologizes for breaking one of their eggs.  The doctor tells the young man to leave this place and go about his business, remembering nothing.  As soon as Michael is out the door, Dr. Monserrat and Estelle sit down at their table and join hands.

Michael walks down the street.  Dr. Monserrat and Estelle are still aware of his sensations.  He goes back to the dance club.  They can hear the music.  He rejoins Nicole and Alan and takes a swig of beer.  Dr. Monserrat makes a face.  "Ugh!  Horrible stuff."

Alan excuses himself for a moment, leaving Michael and Nicole alone.  Dr. Monserrat and Estelle try to think of what to do next.  The doctor has an idea.  (Oh, get your mind out of the gutter.  There's not enough room 'cause I'm there already.)  Michael tells Nicole they're leaving.  They quickly write a note for Alan and take off.

Later, Nicole and Michael get out of a cab.  She asks what they're doing here.  He says they're going for a swim in an indoor, heated pool.  They sneak past a sleeping security guard to the pool.  She says she never knew about this place.  He says he didn't either; it just came to him.  They strip down to their undergarments and dive in.

Back at the Monserrat home, the elderly couple revel in the sensation of swimming.  Finally, Estelle declares it's too exhausting.  Dr. Monserrat tells her they can give up control of the boy and get it back later.  They relax.  While Michael continues his swim with Nicole, Dr. Monserrat excitedly tells Estelle about the possibilities.  For example, a volunteer could go on a long trip and transmit his sensations to people at home.  The doctor excitedly plans to write a report on his test results.  (Heh, hope his report writing is better than his advertising.)

However, Estelle stops her husband in mid-thought and asks about the control.  He acknowledges it, but she drops her pleasant demeanor while contemplating what this could mean.  Then she reminds him about how he was discredited by a reporter and they'd been living in near poverty for years.  This is their chance to have something special.  So she asks her husband to hold off on his report while they can still control Michael.  Only for a little while, she says.  The doddering doctor very reluctantly gives into his loyal wife and assistant.  Only for a little while, he says.

Michael takes Nicole home.  He asks to come up.  She kisses him and says goodnight.

The next day, Estelle is walking down the street when she sees something that catches her eye.  In the window of a store is a fur coat.  She looks at it and smiles.  Later, she tells her husband about the coat.  It's sure to be insured, she says.  They won't really miss it, she rationalizes.  Dr. Monserrat sadly gives in.  Just this once, but no more, he says.

That night, Michael goes to Nicole's place to pick her up for a date.  She's nearly ready; that is, she's just stepped out of the shower and is wearing a towel.  Her state of unreadiness amuses Michael.  He sits down to look at a magazine while waiting for her to be more ready.

At the Monserrat home, the elder couple begins concentrating.  Michael looks up, puts down the magazine, and quietly leaves.  

Nicole comes out of her room and sees that Michael is gone.  She rings a garage.  A mechanic called Rob (Alf Joint) answers the phone and calls Alan to the phone.  After a short conversation, Alan is ready to beat feet out of the garage to go on a date with Nicole.  Rob gives him his blessing, with the proviso that she's on the pill.

Michael walks down a dark street.  Estelle is directing him.  He stops at a door and forces it open.  Unfortunately, he sets off a burglar alarm.  Estelle gasps in shock.  Michael quickly shuts it off.  Then he tries to open the window display where the fur coat is.  This would be about the time that a Metropol cop shows up to investigate the open door at the store.  Estelle is terrified.  Michael hides.  As the policeman walks past where Michael is hiding, Estelle's terror turns into thrilled ecstasy.  Dr. Monserrat, on the other hand, is showing no emotion beyond pure concentration.

Meanwhile, Nicole and Alan have gone to the night club.  Alan admits he feels strange taking her out because she's Michael's girl.  Nicole tells Alan that she doesn't love Michael.

Back at the store, the policeman is apparently satisfied there's no one around to ask, "What's all this, then?"  He moves on.  Michael resumes opening the display panel.  He reaches for the fur coat, but cuts his hand.  Both Dr. Monserrat and Estelle jump at the pain.  Michael goes outside, drops the coat into a trash can, and moves on.

Dr. Monserrat reminds Estelle to pick up the coat in the morning.  Estelle, on the other hand, is still excited from the experience - especially the part where the policeman came by.  She enjoyed it, and tells her husband that she knows he enjoyed it, too.  He denies this.  She insists that he did, and she continues to explain what she thinks is the best part.  They can vicariously do things they would never dare do in real life, experience the excitement of these dangerous acts, but never pay the consequences.  Dr. Monserrat reluctantly admits she's right; he did enjoy it.

They are no longer holding hands.  But they have matching cuts on their palms.

Michael goes back to Nicole's place.  She lets him in.  He tells her about his blackout.  When asked, he explains that he remembered leaving earlier, but didn't know why.  All he knows is that he was supposed to do something.  Looking at the cut on his palm, he figures whatever it was he was supposed to do, he did it.  Then he admits this frightens him.  Nicole says that's probably the first time he's ever admitted to being frightened by anything.  Apparently, she finds this vulnerability attractive.  They make love.  (And if Dr. Monserrat picked this moment to tune in, we are not told this.)
 

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The next morning, Estelle brightly asks her husband about speed.  (The velocity kind, dammit.)  Dr. Monserrat doesn't seem interested because he lost the full use of his leg in a traffic accident.  However, the thought of going really, really, dangerously fast intrigues her.  The doctor is upset; he can see where this is going, but he doesn't talk his wife out of it.  (Aw, c'mon, dude!  Show some backbone!)

Michael and Nicole are at lunch.  He asks her when is her next day off.  She says today.  He suddenly announces they're going for a ride in the country.  She asks him how.  He says they'll use a motorcycle.  Sure, he doesn't have a motorcycle, but he knows where he can borrow one.

And so they go to the garage where Alan works.  They get on the motorcycle parked out front.  Michael starts it up.  Alan and Rob hear it.  (No, you joker!  Not the ones over at Oh!  The Humanity!)  Alan runs outside just in time to see them leaving on his motorcycle.  He verbally expresses his displeasure.  (Heh.  This is why God gave us chains and padlocks.) 

Cut to Michael and Nicole on the motorway.  He speeds up.  (Helmet law?  What helmet law?)  Nicole shouts for him to slow down.  He's not listening.  Elsewhere, Estelle is smiling.  Dr. Monserrat unhappily looks down.  Michael twists the accelerator harder.  They fly past vehicles in the slow lane.  Nicole buries her face in Michael's back.  Then they fly off the road, but Michael has enough control to avoid dumping and scattering them both across the ground.  Estelle smiles.

Michael and Nicole return to the garage.  Nicole jumps off the bike and leans against a car, face down.  Alan comes out and reads Michael the riot act.  Estelle says don't let him talk to you like that.  Michael says, "Don't talk to me like that."  Estelle says hit him.  Michael slams his fist into Alan's midsection.  Then he beats the crap out of him for a few minutes, causing much destruction in the garage.  Rob comes up to stop him, but Michael takes him out with one hard blow to the head with a big wrench extender.

Estelle smiles.  Good boy, she says.  Dr. Monserrat is horrified.  He gets up.

Michael looks around in confusion.  He sees Nicole.  She's terrified.  He runs away.

Estelle stands up, exhausted and exhilarated.  Dr. Monserrat is horrified.  His wife tells him they've just learned one thing for sure; her will is stronger than his.  He tried to stop her but couldn't.  He says she can't always win.  He'll get the boy back to the lab and deprocess him while she's asleep.  She laughs.  Then she kicks the walking stick out from under her husband.  He falls.  While he's on the ground, she takes his stick to the lab and demolishes the equipment with maniacal glee.

After Michael rearranges Alan's spleen... ...Estelle rearranges the lab.

After she's done, she sees her husband on the ground in the doorway.  She tells him there's no point in bringing boy back because he can't deprocess him without the equipment.  Then she laughs and declares he can't stop her.  He vows to stop her somehow.  She looks down at him, holds the walking stick up high, laughs, and brings it down hard....

Ladies and gentlemen, it is the policy of B-Notes to describe plots in inverse proportion to the amount of respect we have for the movie in question.  That is, if a movie sucks, we tell you the ending.

Therefore, we won't be telling you this ending, regardless of how predictable it may be.
 

The Good Stuff

Both Sides Now

This movie plays to two sides of the generation gap.  Younger viewers can relate to Michael.  He's bright, witty, and a loner at heart.  He also has a problem with authority figures.  Ironically, he's taken over by a creepy older couple.  When he begins committing crimes and realizing what he's been doing without remembering them or knowing why, it's good psychological horror.

On the other hand, Dr. Monserrat and Estelle will appeal to older members of the audience.  Karloff's portrayal of the well intentioned doctor is typically good.  But Estelle is particularly good to watch.  She goes from a prosaic, loving, devoted helpmate to an excitable, power mad, sadistic, homicidal maniac.  The horror of that transformation, plus Dr. Monserrat's inability to stop her, plus Catherine Lacey's edgy performance make this change in character profoundly compelling.  (Note: This memorable performance is why this movie was selected for the Pretty Mad Scientists roundtable of reviews.)

Two acting styles are in play here, but they do not clash to negative effect.  Ian Ogilvy plays his Michael in the extemporaneous style popular at the time.  Karloff and Lacey play it more as traditional melodrama.  Both sets do their own style well, and the difference emphasizes the gulf of generations.  Creative clashes in personality are the foundation of good drama.
 

Attention to Detail

Writer/director/producer Michael Reeves was a creative, focused craftsman, and it shows here. He and his co-writers give good dialogue to both sets of actors, and he pays close attention to things like continuity, blocking, framing, etc.

And he continued his focus into post production as well.  For what is obviously a cheaply funded movie, the finished product has a rich sense of polish.  The sound track includes various styles of music, from classy romantic motifs to dissonant chords to pop tune stylings, all lovingly interjected.  He also put in some creative touches in the editing.  For a simple example, take the scene where Michael hits Rob in the head with a big socket wrench extender.  At the moment of impact, the picture jumps to white for a couple of frames.  It's just long enough to be perceptible and communicate the pain of a head injury, yet subtle enough to be unobtrusive.  

As another example, when we are initially shown scenes with Michael under control, we are shown shots of the Monserrats to tell us this is what's happening.  Big deal, you may say.  But as the story progresses, those cuts to the Monerrats become progressively faster, to the point where they become quick flashes during some sequences.  The pace of these interjected cuts increase in proportion to the quickening pace of the story.  Small, creative touches of story telling techniques like this are good evidence of Reeve's love for what he was doing and his ability for putting that love into film.
 

Something Old, Something New

The basic stories are old.  An elder being finds a way to possess the mind of a young man.  A sorcerer's assistant usurps the sorcerer's power, and mayhem follows.  Since the story is set in a contemporary time and involves the generation gap, you may suggest the social implications of an older person controlling a younger person.  Perhaps, with the appropriate argument, the story works that way.  But it is equally (perhaps more) satisfying to see this as something old and familiar juxtaposed with a newer time.  Just as H. P. Lovecraft's transposed tales of demons become more credibly nightmarish because his demons are creatures from other worlds, this fundamental fable of possession and consequences is effective because of the thoughtful transposition to then contemporary science fiction and storytelling style.
 

The Bad Stuff

Predictable Ending and Questionable Science

As noted in this article's preface, this movie is a product of the Silver Age of B movies.  Pessimistic endings were common.  This, coupled with the observation that this story follows the formula for an old fashioned tale of possession, leads one to the easy conclusion that it's going to have an ending where pretty much everybody dies.  If this story was intended to be like classical tragedy, that assumption would be acceptable because that's an essential of classical tragedy; when the hero dies or is broken beyond redemption, you get a sense of catharsis.  However, this ending is not cathartic.

Another drawback on borrowing from mystic tales is the science.  No attempt is made to convince us that what we are seeing could really happen.  On the plus side, the story is told at a quick clip with such skill that we don't really get a chance to dwell on this shortcoming.  And maybe it's a good thing they don't try to explain how things like the telepathy and stigmata work; the explanations might have triggered incredulity.  And never mind the association with hypnosis and telepathy in older stories (but feel free to check out the Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares in the B-Note on Scared to Death (1947)).
 

Your Budget is Showing

Perhaps the biggest mistake a B movie can make is doing something that makes the movie looks stupid due to budget.  A common example from other movies (particularly from the Golden Age) is showing poorly realized aliens.  Rather than being impressed by the presentation of the otherworldly creatures, most audiences will sense goofiness and laugh.

The Sorcerers rarely makes this mistake.  But two examples are painfully obvious.  One, when we see Dr. Monsarrat's lab, it's rather evident this is a cheap science fiction set.  This should be acceptable in the plot because Dr. Monsarrat is a man on a tiny budget.  The lab is the sort of thing you'd expect a dedicated tinkerer to put together on his off time.  But knowing this is quite different from seeing it for the first time.  The build-up for the first time we see it, plus the audio cues in the soundtrack that this is supposed to be a dangerous place, do not match the effect of seeing it.

The second example is at the end.  The ambitions of the filmmaker exceeded his ability to deliver due to budget.  You can expect and accept a depressing ending, but that doesn't mean you should allow a filmmaker disappoint you, especially when he's done so much to not disappoint.
 

The Who Cares Stuff

Notes on the Cast and Crew

Michael Reeves (director, writer, producer) got his break into professional filmmaking by being a best boy for Don Siegel.  After that learning experience, he took over second unit direction and some writing chores on the remarkably surreal Il Castello dei Morti Vivi [The Castle of the Living Dead] (1964).  After making the disappointing La Sorella di Satana (1966, a.k.a. Sister of Satan, Revenge of the Blood Beast, and The She-Beast), he returned to England and made The Sorcerers with mostly his own financial backing.

After The Sorcerers, Reeves made the well crafted and deeply depressing Mathew Hopkins: Witchfinder General (1968, a.k.a. Conqueror Worm).  And that was that.  He died from a drug overdose the following year.

Could it be that the deeply focused loner named Michael Reeves wrote himself into The Sorcerers as the deeply focused loner named Michael Roscoe?  You decide.

Boris Karloff (Dr. Monserrat) needs no introduction here, and a thumbnail description would not do him justice.  He was at the end of a long, popular career, such that he could even parody his gentle boogeyman image in things like Targets (1968).  (Nitpicker's Note: Other sources spell the character's name as "Montserrat," but his advertisement at the tobacconist's omits that first t.)

Catherine Lacey (Estelle) had bit parts in noteworthy movies like The Lady Vanishes (1938) and I Know Where I'm Going (1945).  She also got some good parts in good movies, playing Mrs. Waggit in Whisky Galore! (1949, a.k.a. Tight Little Island) and Lady Mounset in The Servant (1963).

Ian Ogilvy (Michael) was a longtime friend Reeves and a regular in his movies, culminating that association as the romantic lead in Witchfinder General . Most of his career has been playing photogenic, relatively innocent characters in horrible circumstances, like the man whose wife is raped by a ghost in And Now the Screaming Starts (1973) and the amiable, doomed Drusus in the I, Claudius mini-series (1976).  People are most likely to have seen him playing Chagall in Death Becomes Her (1992).

Susan George (Audrey) usually played the blonde vixen getting into trouble which she may have caused.  In Straw Dogs (1971), her character teases a few local men and is gang raped; in Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry (1974), goes on a car chase odyssey of automobile destruction with Peter Fonda's character when she turns on the charm and he kidnaps her.  Oh, yeah, and her character was more than friendly with the help in Mandingo (1975).  (Note: We don't describe her character in the plot description for The Sorcerers, but let's just say it's in line with what would become her usual character type.)

Alf Joint (Rob) was a stuntman and stunt coordinator/arranger in various features, including Superman (1978) and Return of the Jedi (1983).

Paul Ferris (original music) laid down some nice, classy tunes for The Sorcerers, and he also composed a few memorable motifs for The Blood Beast Terror (1967) and The Creeping Flesh (1973).

Patrick Curtis (producer) was a child actor within a year of his birth, standing (?) in as the baby of Nick and Nora Charles in Another Thin Man (1939) and baby Beau Wilkes in Gone With the Wind (1939).  As he grew up, he continued playing bit parts.  In the mid-sixties, he became a producer and made movies with his girlfriend Raquel Welch, like A Swingin' Summer (1965) and Fathom (1967).

Tony Tenser (producer) managed the making of various macabre and weird tales, like Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-sac (1966), plus both of Reeve's British made movies, plus various Hammer Studios style semi-gothic pieces like The Blood Beast Terror (1967) and The Creeping Flesh (1973).
 

Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares

"Radar Love" (or, Thanks for Sharing)

Les Frères Corse by Alexander Dumas, père (1844, a.k.a. The Corsican Brothers) - The tale of co-joined twins surgically separated at birth yet still spiritually bound.  You probably know it better for the gimmick of what one twin experiences, the other feels.  Made into a various movies, but the most memorable version was in 1941.  Spoofed with varying degrees of success in Start the Revolution Without Me (1970) and Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers (1984).

The Lady and the Monster (1944) - You might know this story better by the title of Curt Siodmak's novel, Donovan's Brain.  Disembodied brain begins to take telepathic control on those around it.  Made into various versions and variations.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (1957) - The Corsican Brothers enter the atomic age manifold.  After a simultaneous set of mysterious pregnancies, the women of a small village give birth to children who are all telepathically linked.  Made into Village of the Damned (1960).  See also Journey into Darkness (1968), a two story anthology from a British TV series.  The second story is about quadruplets.  One of them is dominant and has telepathic control over the others.  And see also Anna to the Infinite Power by Mildred Aimes, wherein a young girl discovers she is one of a set of clones bound by telepathy.

"We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Phillip K. Dick (1966) - Short story about a common clerk who goes to a company called Rekal to buy false, adventurous memories.  Confusion ensues.  Basis for Total Recall (1990).  See also "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" by John Varley (1976), wherein the theme enters virtual reality territory.

World of Ptavvs by Larry Niven (1966) - In the future, a professional telepath works with dolphins.  This has some unusual side-effects on his personality; he starts acting as capricious as they do.  Then he's given the task of reading the mind of a recently discovered alien.  Unfortunately, the alien is a powerful telepath with a long experience of reading other minds; after reading the alien's mind, the human can't tell the read memories from his own and believes he's the alien....

Sweet, Sweet Rachel (1970) - Made for TV movie about a woman haunted by visions of murder.  After consulting parapsychologist, she learns that she's psychically in tune with a killer.  Given the popularity of ESP in the early '70's, this was picked up as a pilot for the TV series The Sixth Sense (1972).  See also Visions... (1972), wherein a man begins to see through the eyes of a bomber preparing to blow up an overpass, Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), and Dario Argento's Profondo Rosso (1975, a.k.a. Deep Red).

Hauser's Memory (1970) - Based on yet another novel by Curt Siodmak.  A man is injected with the memories of another man.  He begin to lose track of which memories are his and which ones are the other guy's, which is a more of a problem than that might usually be -- the other guy was a Nazi sympathizer.

Basket Case (1982) - The dark side of the Corsican Brothers.  This time around, they're seeking revenge on the surgical team that separated them.  See also (sort of) Sisters (1973).

The Beastmaster (1982) - Fantasy tale about a mystic warrior with a telepathic link to animals, allowing him to see what they see.  Followed by a small litter of sequels and a TV series.

Brainstorm (1983) - A new invention can record senses from one person and play them back into another.  How useful and how dangerous might this be?  (Note: If you should happen to get the chance to see this from a 70 mm print on a big screen, do it.)

Being John Malkovich (1999) - Weird, inventive fantasy about a down-on-his-luck puppeteer who discovers a tunnel that leads into the mind of a famous actor.  Given the large number of people who'd rather be someone else for a while, can he make a buck on this?  (C.f. Trancers (1985) plus sequels and Quantum Leap (1989-1993).)
 

A Note on Availability

The Sorcerers is remarkably hard to find.  After reading this article, you may be curious enough to seek it out.  Good luck.  Aside from a few isolated television markets, the only place I know that you can find this rare movie is a collector's source called The Trash Palace.
 

The Bottom Line

Well intentioned scientist develops a method to telepathically link and control people, but his wife takes over the experiment so that she can experience the thrill of danger and mayhem by proxy.  Compelling performance by Catherine Lacey as a loving wife turning into a homicidal psychopath when the restraints of consequences are removed.  Typically good showings by Boris Karloff and Ian Ogilvy.  Shot on a tiny budget but put together by an attentive craftsman.  Non-existent science, but an interesting and unique angle on possession and corrupting power themes.  Recommended for Karloff fans (who have large collections), Michael Reeves fans (who have tiny collections), young people who are easily creeped out by old people, old people who are easily envious of young people, anglophiles, and people looking for stories about female mad scientists.
 

But Wait! There's More!

Pretty Mad Scientists

The B-Masters' Cabal does roundtable reviews on a quarterly basis.  This time around, our resident avowed professional scientist and sole female member suggested we do one on female mad scientists.  Rather than hear me talk about the significance of this theme, you should read her tongue-in-cheek thoughts on the matter.

Follow me to Our Lady of Mad Science

And be sure to visit our other member sites for the other movies in this roundtable.

 

And You Call Yourself A Scientist! - - Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966) 
The Bad Movie Report - - Lady Frankenstein (1971)
Badmovies.org - - Devil Girl from Mars (1954)
Cold Fusion Video Reviews - - Carnosaur (1993)
Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension - - Teenage Zombies (1959)
Opposable Thumbs Films - - Flesh Feast (1970)
Stomp Tokyo - - The Last Man on Planet Earth (1999)
- Plus, a Special Bonus Short
Teleport City - - In Like Flint (1967)

 

Originally published on 11 November 2000
Updated (pictures added) on 25 November 2000

 






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