A disgraced medical hypnotist (Boris Karloff) invents a machine that enables himself and his wife (Catherine Lacey) to live the experiences of Michael, a young man (Ian Ogilvy) who the machine has placed under their command. But Michael is driven to more extreme acts for their pleasure...
Director Michael Reeves and Tom Baker wrote this weird, downbeat British shocker from an idea by John Burke. Karloff stars in one of his traditional misguided scientist roles, creating a scientific miracle that is fatally misused (well, it wouldn't be much of a horror movie if it wasn't). But in this story, harsh reality of real life has encroached on Karloff's fantasy world, making this far less cosy than some of his earlier mad scientist horrors.
Not only is youth wasted on the young, The Sorcerers says, but it wouldn't do the old much good either. While Karloff has the best intentions for his machine, his wicked wife (Lacey is very effective indeed) pushes Michael to acts of violence culminating in murder. Oddly, sex doesn't seem to be on the agenda - maybe they couldn't get that past the censor in 1967, or perhaps it wouldn't fit in with the deeply pessimistic tone of the film which sees people at their worst.
It's a cheaply made film, but its low budget works in its favour, giving the events an immediacy and a grittiness that a higher budget gloss would have lost. Karloff's invention consists of a control panel, some flashing lights, a slide projector, a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a pair of elaborate headphones, but it does the trick. Ogilvy convinces as the bored, thrill-seeking young man who gets more than he bargained for.
Many film fans would say that Witchfinder General was Reeves' best film, but I think The Sorcerers was his finest. It's a nihilistic and nasty world that the characters inhabit, making this a few years ahead of its time - if only Reeves had lived to see the dawn of punk in Britain. Also with: a good car chase, and one of the bleakest endings in British horror cinema. Music by Paul Ferris.
Promising British writer-director who first found work in Italy, on Castle of the Living Dead. The She Beast was his next credit, and two minor classics of bleak horror followed: The Sorcerers and Witchfinder General, which many regard as his masterpiece. Tragically he died of an overdose in his mid-twenties, before he could start work on his next film, The Oblong Box.