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June 07, 2016

Sorceress

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Jim Wynorski - 1994
Synapse Films BD Regions ABC

Jim Wynorski is nothing if not industrious. Unlike several older protoges of Roger Corman who went on to make prestigious films, including several Oscar winners, Wynorski has carved out a path of making the contemporary equivalent to the older Roger Corman films - low budget films, shot quickly and profitably. Wynorski has also remade some of Corman's films, most famously Not of this Earth with Tracy Lords, and has also directed some seventy-odd films to date. For myself, the most interesting aspect of Wynorski's filmography is seeing the names of some of the actors he's worked with, actors who were considered stars for a brief period, and more typically fodder for the where-are-they-now articles that appear on websites or tabloid publications.

I wasn't familiar with Sorceress, but according to Ranker, it's considered Wynorski's eleventh best film. The basic plot seems like an episode of the TV series, Bewitched, with two rival witches trying to get their respective husbands set up to be the next partner at a law firm. What might seem like a comic premise is played straight for the most part. What reportedly has made Sorceress a cult film is the sexual content. In his commentary track, Wynorski discusses the trend in the early Nineties of the "erotic thriller", the kind of films that helped give one cable channel the name "Skinamax". This new blu-ray edition has footage that was not available on the VHS release or in some cable TV versions.

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The big names here had their box office glory twenty years earlier. Linda Blair will forever be associated with The Exorcist. Edward Albert, son of Eddie Albert, had his moment with two films adapted from plays, with 40 Carats featuring Albert as the too young suitor of Liv Ullmann. 1973 also saw William Marshall in his second turn as Blacula. As it turned out Sorceress would be Marshall's last film appearance, appearing as the head of the law film that employs Albert and Larry Poindexter. Marshall keeps his dignity, Albert keeps a straight face, and Blair keeps her clothes on.

I don't think anyone watching Sorceress really cares who becomes partner at the law film. And I'm certain there was a sigh of relief when deranged gardner Michael Parks gets shot, although his performance might give a hint as to what we might have seen had James Dean been a better driver. The film opens with Julie Strain nude except for a diaphanous black nightie, slathering some kind of goo over her spectacularly enhanced chest. The other actresses are almost as well endowed. The witchcraft is just Strain and Blair reciting spells at their respective altars, but even that is besides the point. This is a movie for guys who like seeing Julie Strain get naked. We've got a twosome with Larry Poindexter, a threesome with Poindexter and Toni Naples, and most famously, a lesbian threesome with Naples and Strain in festish wear, seducing Rochelle Swanson. If you want to see Linda Blair undressed, you'll have to check out Chained Heat. I hope Swanson was well paid for kissing Larry Poindexter's butt.

Wynorski never mentions the budget, other than that it was limited, and that the film was shot in twelve days. Praise is given to cinematographer Gary Graver, best remembered for working with Orson Welles. There's nothing distinctly Wellesian here, though Graver does manager to make much of the film look like something from the pages of "Penthouse" magazine. Graver is praised several times for his craftsmanship. Filmmakers working with limited funds may find things to be gleaned from Jim Wynorski's commentary. I do kind of wish that the opening scene was filmed in 3D.

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Posted by peter at June 7, 2016 03:38 PM