Release Date(s)1982 (August 19, 2014)
Studio(s)New World Pictures (Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: B-
Even though Sorceress was one of New World Pictures’ more successful movies, especially during the 80’s when sword and sorcery movies were at their peak in popularity (thanks mostly to the Conan movies), it’s one that doesn’t seem to get as much press as some of the others. It was directed by one of Roger Corman’s top directors Jack Hill, who also directed The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage, Switchblade Sisters, and many other exploitation classics, and also starred a couple of Playboy playmates, Leigh and Lynette Harris, in the lead roles.
The plot of the film is that the evil wizard named Traigon pledges to sacrifice his first born child to his God Caligara in order to gain more power. His wife gives birth to twins and she decides to let them live, allowing them to escape to the care of Krona, a magical man who raises them to be strong warriors. When their village is attacked years later by Traigon and their foster parents are murdered, they set out on a quest with the help of Valdar the Viking and Erlick the Barbarian to seek revenge against their father and stop him from carrying out his evil deeds which includes sacrificing one of them to his God.
As I stated previously, the sword and sorcery sub-genre of action movies were popular at the box office during the 80’s, and Roger Corman, being a producer who knows how to properly rip off big mainstream movies, had several movies made to capitalize on their successes. Besides this film, Corman also produced the Deathstalker series and Barbarian Queen series for this purpose. With the aid of Jack Hill as director (who took his name off the movie after a falling out between him and Corman), plus a script by Jim Wynorski and special effects by John Carl Buechler, the only element missing were the leads, which Jack Hill provided.
There’s just no nice way of saying that Sorceress is a terrible movie. It’s all there in the title as to how bad the movie is. This movie is not about a sorceress nor does a sorceress ever become involved in the main plot. But, that’s not to say that this movie doesn’t have some appeal. Besides the bad acting itself, there’s also the excessive amounts of nudity (especially from the leads), the goat-man who bleats like a sheep, the terrible overdubbing, the laughable props... well, you get the idea. It’s a super cheesy movie with lots of appealing aspects to it. It’s never boring either. There’s always something happening on screen at any given time. It’s probably one of Corman’s most energetic productions in a lot of ways. The story is just silly enough and the movie is just bad enough that it makes for many ‘so bad that it’s good’ moments that I value in a movie of its ilk.
Scorpion Releasing has saw fit to make a transfer of a new HD master of the once thought lost original 83 minute version of the film. The film has never had a proper DVD or Blu-ray release before, at least in the U.S., so to get the complete version of it is a real treat. The print’s grain structure is quite solid, offering up a great amount of detail with some very fine textures in skin and clothing. Colors are reproduced beautifully, offering up very strong blues, greens, and, ahem, pinks. Black and contrast levels are also impressive. There appears to be no signs of digital enhancement, but there are some light film artifacts left behind; however, they’re quite minor. In the sound department, we’re given a single English 2.0 DTS-HD track. The track is not all that impressive as a mix, particularly when it comes to the sound effects and score. Dialogue is fine, although out of sync most of the time (for obvious reasons), but it sounds quite muddled when the action kicks in. There’s not a ton of low end activity, nor is there much spatial activity from speaker to speaker. It’s a soundtrack that’s pretty reflective of the quality of the movie itself, to be honest. It’s not the worst, but it’s a faithful recreation, I’m sure. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles included.
For the extras selection, Scorpion Releasing has included four separate interviews, including one with producer Roger Corman (The Magic Behind Sorceress), one with special effects artists John Carl Buechler (The Illusion Behind Sorceress), another with writer Jim Wynorski (The Incantation Behind Sorceress), and the last with post production supervisor Clark Henderson. Also included is the film’s original theatrical trailer, plus trailers for Space Raiders, Stripped to Kill, Sorority House Massacre, and Seizure, also available from Scorpion Releasing.
Sorceress, in the finest sense of the phrase, is a guilty pleasure, through and through. It’s not hard to understand why the movie was successful back in 1982, and it’s not surprising that it’s developed the cult following it has. But now, thanks to Scorpion Releasing (as well as involvement from Jim Wynorski), it can be seen in all of its cheesy glory.
- Tim Salmons