Monday, 28 May 2012

Night of the Sorcerers

1973, Spain, Directed by Amando De Ossorio
Colour, Running Time: 85 minutes
Review Source: DVD, R1, BCI Eclipse/Deimos; Video: 1.33:1, Audio: DD Mono

Somewhere in the more primitive regions of Africa decades ago a female missionary worker is captured and has her clothes (literally) whipped off in a bizarre voodoo ritual, before she is taken advantage of and decapitated. Her rescuers are moments too late despite arriving on the scene to slaughter the voodoo sorcerers like dirty pigs. Oddly, the woman's head, now boasting fangs, returns to life after having been separated from the body... In the present day a group of not-quite likely zoologists stop to camp near the same area. An expert on voodoo tradition (including the aforementioned tale retold within the prologue) warns the bunch about risks, but this mainly falls on deaf ears of course (otherwise there'd be no fun to be had!). Overly enthusiastic with a focus ring one of the girls heads off to investigate the local legends and is caught by the woman who was slain decades earlier and soon succumbs to the same fate as the dead sorcerers have awoken to curse the land. And that woman too becomes a vampiric harbinger of doom, again despite the removal of her head. The camp's numbers are going down one at a time as the slow moving voodoo-raised blood-drinking women increase their's.
The director himself needs no introduction to the Euro horror fiend - the Spaniard was responsible for the four Blind Dead films around the same period, and while that series was slightly different in tone, the enjoyment levels here are not too far removed. The expedition is made up of an entertaining variety of nutters, from the daddy's-girl who won't lift a damn finger to help because her father is funding the whole trip, the camera button hammering babe who's even snapping pictures of nearby wildlife when the Land Rover she's a passenger in is bouncing up and down over the rough terrain (must have produced some zany examples of motion blur), and the hard-assed leader played by Euro regular Jack Taylor, etc. One of the most consistently amusing elements of Euro horror is the approach to characterisation in these stories, and the oblivious manner in which these oddball American-wannabees are portrayed on screen by actors/actresses who probably didn't know what the hell was going on half the time. It's certainly no different here. The film mixes up a number of ideas to create its unique take on horror, most notably vampirism, zombies, and voodoo, and De Ossorio lets his imagination roam a little, adding to the mix some sex and nudity plus a few dollops of gore. There is also an air of creepiness combined with eroticism that you don't witness every day in the undead women that prance through the jungle almost ecstatically going about their killing business. Not superb, not even particularly great as cinema goes, but likable and one to re-watch.

The long defunct BCI Eclipse/Deimos label released this on DVD in 2007 and superseding the rumoured Japanese VHS with a slightly different cut this is the best way to watch Night of the Sorcerers, and that may remain to be the case forever in the future of decreasing returns on published media. Probably presented as an open-matte image (that is, the full 35mm frame opened up without the 1.85:1 top/bottom matting that may have occurred during theatrical projection) the image was scanned from negatives producing something colourful and, for Standard Definition, reasonably detailed. Quite nice to look at overall. These DVD producers were always as thoughtful as possible and with the audio you get a choice of Spanish or English dubs, and a good standard of English subtitles is there as an option. Extras are understandably limited: alternate clothed sequences (thankfully the film itself contains the 'unclothed' shots), stills (including some nice posters), and trailers, plus liner notes present in the box. I lament the loss of this company quite highly, and that's why - this film being I think the only one of this line of editions that I never picked up at the time - I forked out £20 to get this and complete my collection. Compared to the Laser Disc days this is not much I know, but way more than I'm willing to pay for a DVD nowadays as HD is generally a much more desirable way to watch a film. Anyway, the people who this film is likely to appeal to will already know who they are.

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