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Dustin Putman

Sorceress  (1995)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
1.5 Stars
(Release Date: June 14, 2016) – Jim Wynorski's "Sorceress" has to be seen to be believed. It may not have been an official late-night Skinemax flick, but it certainly feels that way. A mid-1990s D-movie relic, the film is 40% supernatural thriller, 60% soft-core romp, and 100% goofy. The convoluted premise provides a clothesline for exploitation elements, most notably of the sex and silicon variety. Determined to nab attorney husband Larry (Larry Poindexter) a promotion at work, Erica Barnes (Julie Strain) casts a witchy spell on his main competition, Howard (Edward Albert). When Larry catches her in the act, an argument ensues and Erica falls to her death. When Howard is left paralyzed from Erica's hex, sorceress wife Amelia (Linda Blair) begins plotting her revenge on Larry (with Erica dead, he's the only one left to blame). Her mode of destruction: the possession of Larry's new girlfriend, Carol (Rochelle Swanson), turning her into a homicidal lunatic hell-bent on destroying Larry's life.

"Sorceress" is not a good movie by any stretch, but there is a weird, almost quaint charm in its unapologetic ploys to arouse its target audience of straight men. This is the kind of film where, following a slapping session and attempted sexual assault, Larry asks Maria (Toni Naples), "How far are you willing to go?" to which she sultrily responds, "All the way." It is also the kind of continuity laugh riot where Larry's friend, Don (Lenny Juliano), announces he is headed to take a shower as the afternoon sun glares through the windows, only for day to turn to night once he walks up the stairs. Later, Don enters a steamy sauna and comments without a hint of irony, "It's like a sauna in here!" Toss in a fall from a wheelchair as its wheels inadvertently pop off and fly across the room, a villain who carefully sits down her gun and exits in front of her tied-up victim, and 1991 Penthouse-Pet-turned-actress Julie Strain on hand to feel up her breasts while playing with black magic, and "Sorceress" is worth a gander for lovers of bad cinema.

Lead performer Larry Poindexter is likable and halfway charismatic in spite of the low-rent project in which he's found himself, while Linda Blair—a long, long way from being nominated for an Oscar for 1973's "The Exorcist"— is the one female cast member who keeps her clothes on. She struggles to maintain her dignity and, because she is one of the best actors onscreen, mostly succeeds. "Sorceress" isn't the least bit scary or even particularly involving until the possession angle arrives in the third act, but it somehow kept me watching. And, hey, it's certainly preferable to Wynorski's more recent 2016 offering, the abysmal "Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre."

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Touted as the "original never-before-seen uncensored version remastered in 2K from the original vault elements," this 1080p transfer of "Sorceress" (or "Temptress," as its opening title bills it) looks better than probably anyone could have imagined. There are imperfections—some noticeable dirt during the opening credits, mosquito noise in a handful of nighttime scenes, and softness to the image—but many of these technical issues are likely due to its low-budget nature and '90s film stock. Detail and clarity are unmistakably HD, however, while colors appear accurate and healthy. By and large, this visual presentation is clean and attractive. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is only fine, but fine is all that should be expected from this 1995 direct-to-video release. Dialogue comes through well and the music score is pronounced, even if there is a slight inherent tinny quality to the track.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director Jim Wynorski
  • Audio Commentary with director Jim Wynorski, Joined by actor/director/SPFX make-up artist Tom Savini
Bottom Line
Synapse Films has lavishly restored a number of classic features for the Blu-ray market, from Leni Riefenstahl's controversial 1935 German propaganda film "The Triumph of the Will" to '80s horror gems such as "Curtains," "Prom Night," "Demons," "Demons 2," and "Tenebrae." "Sorceress," on the other hand, is far from a classic. Mixing tinges of the supernatural with loads of ogling and foreplay, it is a curiosity and an artifact from the mid-1990s era of soft-core direct-to-video flicks. Nevertheless, the picture looks as good as it ever has, and will serve a very specific taste. If my review above has left you intrigued, then you may very well be the audience for "Sorceress."

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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