In early 1967, Karloff had traveled to Spain to film Cauldron of Blood. However, that film would not be released until 1970 after Karloff’s death. But, upon completion of the film and resting up, he returned to work for his next film that did see release that same year, The Sorcerers. By this time, his continued poor health and increasingly fragile condition prevented him from doing too much action. In fact, he tends to be seated for what seems like a lot of his onscreen time in this flick and when he does walk it is now with a cane.
Karloff is Professor Marcus Monserret, a world-renowned hypnotist who has perfected a technique of controlling people by the power of his mind. His wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey, The Lady Vanishes, The Mummy’s Shroud) has grown weary of living in poverty but continues to support her husband. When he finally perfects his machine, they trick Mike Roscoe (Ian Ogilvy, She Beast, Witchfinder General) into coming back to their place and be hypnotized. They test out their connection to Mike and when they begin to feel and experience what he does, they know they have success. The professor is ready to finally prove his detractors wrong. However, Estelle would rather use Mike for her own selfish goals. Can the professor stop her before her desires get out of control?
From the opening moments of the film, you know this is not going to be neither a typical Karloff film nor an easy one to watch. Karloff is seen walking with a cane down a street and you can just imagine how much pain he was in at this point. He is sporting a full beard now, looking like an old man on a summer vacation. When the credits begin to roll over late 60s rock music, it immediately pulled me out of the moment. The Sorcerers just doesn’t feel like a Karloff film.
Director Michael Reeves would accomplish better things alongside Christopher Lee in Castle of the Living Dead 1964) and Vincent Price in Witchfinder General (1968). His next film was supposed to be The Oblong Box (1969), again with Vincent Price. However, before filming started, he was found dead after an accidental drug overdose. Unfortunately, The Sorcerers isn’t his best as it is just a poorly made film and doesn’t add to his short legacy. The script needed work but the role of Professor Monserrat is actually well developed but it gets rather tedious early one. Karloff really isn’t unique here as his role could have been played by anyone. Ironically, The Sorcerers did earn both Karloff and Lacey acting awards at the Trieste Film festival.
The Sorcerers was originally written by John Burke but Reeves would not allow Burke to receive writing credit. To be fair, the finished film is definitely different from Burke’s original screenplay but he still deserved some credit. The screenplay would finally be released as a novel in 2013 two years after Burke’s death.
For many years, The Sorcerers would be one of Karloff’s hardest films to find. It was never officially released on VHS with a poor film print circulating via the bootleg market. It was finally released in 2012 through the Warner Archive Collection. Check out this preview clip and I think you’ll get an idea what you’re in for. Not horrible but not the way I prefer my Karloff films to be.