Sunday, 2 May 2021

Sorceress (1982)

After following an interesting if up-and-down trajectory Jack Hill’s career was all but over by 1975 but he did make one last film for Roger Corman in 1982 - the sword & sorcery flick Sorceress, shot in Mexico. Corman had seen Conan the Barbarian and concluded (correctly) that this was a bandwagon worth jumping on.

An extremely nasty wizard named Traigon (Roberto Ballesteros) wants to sacrifice his first-born child to his evil goddess but he has a problem - his woman had twins and she won’t tell him which one was the first-born. If he guesses right he will gain immense power but if he guesses wrong he will suffer horrific consequences. Just as he’s trying to find as solution to his problem a white magician named Krona shows up, kills Traigon, and spirits the twins away.

To protect their lives the twins are raised as boys.

Twenty years later Traigon has been reincarnated (his goddess has gifted him with three lives) and he is determined to find the twins. His followers find the farmhouse in which they were brought up and butchery ensues, leaving the whole of the girls’ adopted family dead. The twins, who have been off skinny-dipping in the river, turn up too late to save their family but they do manage to slaughter the bad guys. You see Krona endowed the twins with awesome warrior prowess as well as sorcerous powers.

The girls hook up with a grizzled but friendly wandering warrior named Baldar. Baldar thinks they’re boys, which tends to indicate that he’s led a very sheltered life and has never seen an actual girl. Baldar has a sidekick, an amiable centaur. Baldar and the twins then hook up with barbarian adventurer Erlick (Roberto Nelson). When the twins undress in front of them it finally dawns on Baldar and Erlick that they’re girls. But the twists is, the twins don’t know that they’re girls. They always just assumed they were boys.

Traigon’s goons are trying to hunt down the twins for Traigon’s blood sacrifice while the twins are trying to hunt him down to kill him. There are lots of narrow escapes, Erlick almost gets impaled and one of the twins discovers that if you’re a girl you can have a lot of fun with a guy. This part is handled with wit and style - while one twin is losing her virginity the other twin gets to experience all the same pleasures.

There are epic fights. There are special effects that are mostly very good by low-budget 1982 standards. There are cool costumes (the beaked helmets on Traigon’s goons are a nice touch). The ape makeup effects on Traigon’s mistress’s man-ape pet are remarkably good, and the centaur is done pretty convincingly as well. The risen dead fights are excellent and creepy. There are lots of babes and lots of nudity. Even the special effects that wouldn’t quite pass muster today are at least clever and well thought out. The sets are good and the whole thing looks much more expensive than it was.

It’s what you expect from a Jack Hill movie - it’s done with a bit more cleverness and a bit more style than you expect in a movie of this type. And a bit more wit.

The twins are played by real-life twins Leigh and Lynette Harris, former Playboy models who made two films in the early 80s and that was the extent of their film careers. They’re not exactly great actresses but they’re not called on to demonstrate anything demanding of real acting skills, just take their clothes off and wave swords around (both of which they do quite satisfactorily). In fact they acquit themselves pretty well. In fact the performances of the entire cast are more than adequate.

Jack Hill’s directing credits including the brilliant, fascinating but strange girl gang movie Switchblade Sisters, the excellent blaxploitation classic Coffy, the entertaining women-in-prison film The Big Doll House and the indescribably bizarre Spider Baby.

Unfortunately Hill and Corman disagreed strongly over the editing of the movie and Hill cut his ties with New World Pictures, and even more unfortunately that had the effect of ending his career - the market was changing and the opportunities that he hoped would open up for him failed to eventuate. The tragedy of it is that Sorceress was a major hit and Hill could have gone on to make lots more movies for Corman.

Scorpion Releasing have put this movie out on both DVD and Blu-Ray, with very nice transfers and quite a few extras - there are interviews with Corman (who is quite proud of the movie), writer Jim Wynorski, post production supervisor Clark Henderson and makeup artist John Carl Buechler (whose work in this movie is outstanding).

Sorceress was the movie that launched New World’s successful cycle of sword & sorcery films, most of which (such as Barbarian Queen) are thoroughly enjoyable.

Sorceress is stylish and it’s enormous fun. Highly recommended.

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