The Night of the Sorcerers (1973)
By: Mr Intolerance on February 18, 2009  | 
BCI (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. Castilian DD Mono 2.0, English DD Mono 2.0. 85 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Starring: Simon Andreu, Kali Hansa, Jack Taylor, Maria Kosti
Screenplay: Amando de Ossorio
Country: Spain
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Ahh, the joys of the 1970s, when you could get away with anything on film without having to worry about the ogre of political correctness coming along to spoil the party. Many a cinematic meister-stroke was made back in the day that would never get its way past a script editor, let alone the censors today. Just think of things like Poor Pretty Eddie or Fight For Your Life – now there are some movies I'm thinking will be spared the indignity of ever being remade in this day and age, and thank whoever you worship (me, ideally) for it. Now, while Amando (he of the Blind Dead series of films) de Ossorio's The Night of the Sorcerers isn't exactly rubbing shoulders with the previously mentioned films in terms of out and out abrasiveness, it's certainly a highly exploitative little number that the predictable PC thugs who tell us what we can and can't watch would find uncomfortable viewing, to put it mildly – it's a race thing, let alone a sex or a violence thing. This, to me, is de Ossorio's "everything film" - just keep chucking weirdness at the audience (zombies, vampires, witchcraft, nudity, violence) and let them deal with it – or more to the point, don't give them time to deal with it, let's keep this ball rolling!

The place: the fictitious African nation of Bumbasa. The year: 1910. A black magic ceremony is going on amongst the natives that requires the involvement of a captive white woman – wait a second, she's clothed. Hmm, shall we rip the clothes off of her? Hell no, we'll whip the clothes off of her. Battered and bleeding, the poor now-nekkid wretch has not got a lot of goodness in her immediate future – her imminent rape by the witch-doctor for example shows that statement to be true. I guess her decapitation is just the full-stop to the sentence – but, things can only get worse, while the tribe dance ritualistically about to drumming, and as a bunch of English explorers (complete with khakis and pith helmets) rather belatedly try to rescue the girl. In typical colonial fashion, the death of one white person means the slaughter of the entire native camp. But something very strange is going on...

Now, spin on to the present day (that is: 1974) and a bunch of explorers are delving deep into Bumbasa (well, a safari park outside Madrid called Aldea de Fresno, in reality) with apparently limitless stock footage, an awful soundtrack, a couple of large vehicles and all the other paraphernalia you take with you on safari. Helmed by exploitation regulars Simon Andreu (Rod) and American Euro-trash star Jack Taylor (and his moustache, of course, which should receive separate billing), these brave explorers are out to re-stamp the white man's foot on the African countryside. Well, okay, that's not quite true – they're actually there because Liz (the token irritating blonde) has a father who's sponsored the Professor Jonathan Grant's (Taylor & mo) journey to the region to monitor certain species of animals that may becoming extinct.

The explorers decide to set up camp – of course, it's not too far away from where the pre-credit scene took place, watched from the bushes by the natives, who are probably too scared to talk to the mighty whitey because of the truly appalling fashion sense displayed by the 3 women in the group. Eventually they're welcomed by Munga, a local fur trader (because of course you want to be welcomed by criminals and animal slaughterers when you arrive somewhere new), who thankfully turns up with a whole mess of expository dialogue to clue the audience in. The village was born due to the ivory trade and is dying at an equal rate to the elephants who provided it, hence the natives' curiosity in the whites, having not seen any in a time. Munga goes further to relate the legend of the sorcerers, which also drives people away from the area. The natives believe that the spirits of the dead sorcerers come back at night to re-enact their voodoo ceremonies (interesting, since they're not in Haiti), and reanimate the leopard-women; these are kind of werewolves in reverse – by day, they're leopards, by night, demons in human form. In abbreviated leopard-skin bikinis. Ahem.

Carol, the group's photographer decides to go for a midnight stroll to take some happy-snaps of the burial ground of the sorcerers (after first photographing her friends Rod and Tanika having it off in the local stream), thinking she'll see some crazy voodoo rituals. We've all seen horror films before – we know that this can't possibly end well, and that by wandering off into the dark that she is, unfortunately given horror movie logic, asking for badness to happen.

Of course, the sorcerers are coming back to life (woo-hoo! Zombie witch-doctors! Apparently the movie started out as a reasonably straight zombie flick, and things kind of changed as the film went on in production) and you kind of hope for Carol's sake that she's lived a long, rich fulfilling life with no regrets. And out comes the first of the leopard women! Waa-hey! And she might seem a little familiar to you, too. Poor old Carol in her tied off shirt, denim mini-skirt and go-go boots doesn't stand too much of a chance once tied up against the sacrificial trees and having the pre-credit sequence played out upon her. But the canny audience member knows at least one thing for sure about her future...

It would appear that neither of the men in the camp are worth a fart in a noisemaker when it comes to keeping watch at night, Rod's too busy fucking Tanika, and when it's Jonathan's turn, he simply goes to sleep. Yep, I'd feel safe with those two bozos overseeing things. Anyway, Rod, Jonathan and Munga (what the hell kind of name is that anyway?) head out into the jungle the next morning to look for Carol. Yeah, good luck, boys. A side note: at various points of the film, you can see leopard heads peering out of the foliage. If they aren't stuffed heads on sticks, I will eat my boots. This is a much more camp and explicitly exploitative de Ossorio film than what you'd normally expect, and despite the overtly sadistic violence, it's not retaining the kind of tone you'd expect either, given his other forays into the horror genre (however, the less said about the unfortunate Sea Serpent, the better). It seems contradictory, but the over-the-top nature of the violence seems to lighten the mood somewhat from the oppressive bleakness of Tombs of the Blind Dead or the charred romanticism of The Loreley's Grasp. Odd, and I can't explain it – this just strikes me as a gleefully perverse film that isn't taking itself too seriously as it rides rough-shod over societal taboos.

Y'know, a more unlikeable bunch of characters it'd be difficult to find. Carol is/was an air-headed bimbette with no idea of the very real danger of roaming about in the jungle, Liz is a vituperative spoilt princess, Tanika, a jealous harpy, Jonathan, a cardboard cut-out with all the emotional range of a wardrobe, Rod, a macho he-man who can't see the woods for the trees. There's nobody here you can really sympathise with at all, no emotional reference point for the audience whatsoever. And so the damn fools bunk down for their second night in their jungle abode.

It's funny – in Tombs of the Blind Dead, the slow-motion galloping of the Templars was truly menacing, bordering on the terrifying, but here in The Night of the Sorcerers, the slow-motion running of the leopard/vampire women is kinda silly. Good cinematography and all, but it all seems a bit laughable – their novelty-shop vampire-teeth and rampant over-acting probably aren't helping either. So the girls are heading to the camp to tempt Liz with all the dubious charms of the undead and otherwise cause havoc, while Jonathan discovers that a) Rod was not doing a good job of being a guard, probably because he had his policeman out at the same time, and b) Carol seemed to be trying to make her way as an amateur pornographer. He's not pleased by the photos he's found in Carol's discarded camera in the slightest. But that's really the least of his problems.

Liz is stupid enough to head off with Carol, and not even ask her where she picked up her new wardrobe from or who her new dentist is, or even why they're heading into the jungle with her in the shortest nightie I've ever seen – talk about a Gosford skirt... Y'know, I haven't seen this much blood running over female flesh since the last early 70s Hammer film I watched. It's a good thing.

Munga turns up again with intentions of taking Tanika away – his method of persuasion, rape, seems to indicate to me that she may not be too interested in following (this is the same actor who played the equally arseholic rapist in Tombs of the Blind Dead - Jose Thelman sans moustache, if I'm not much mistaken – let's face it, there was only room for one soup-strainer in this film, and Jack Taylor had that one all sewn up), and well, you can see for yourselves how that pans out. Tanika's day, let it be said, actually gets worse (if that's humanly possible – although she does bounce back from sexual assault abnormally quickly), in some regards when looking specifically at life expectancy and her immortal soul (should you believe in such things), from that point on.

Rod has already fucked off to the voodoo witch-doctor's burial ground, placing his trust in a bolt-action rifle – me, I'd be wanting at least an Ingram MAC 10 or two, a whole mess of grenades and maybe a rocket launcher – or maybe just a chainsaw and a shotgun; hell, they got Bruce Campbell outta a bunch of close scrapes. I'll leave it up to you to find out what happens in the finale, it's certainly a bit of an eye-opener, if a highly unlikely one, at times. Mind you, it's also an Amando de Ossorio film, so surprise endings shouldn't really come as a...umm...surprise, he ended sheepishly.
During day-time and when not using stock footage, the picture is as sharp as a tack, if full frame. At night it's so fucking dark it's nigh on impossible to work out what the fuck is going on. This isn't day-for-night blue filter night camera work, obviously de Ossorio wanted something a little more realistic, but jeez, it's not easy to make out what the hell's happening. It's like watching a blob of white moving in a snowstorm. But dark.
Too loud, to the point of distortion, as if someone was trying too hard to maybe over-compensate here for the age of the film. The result is an annoyingly loud mix – particularly seeing as I think this film has nearly as much screaming in it as Alucarda. My neighbours must have thought someone's throat was being slit in my flat.
Extra Features
The special features are few and far between. There is some alternate footage used in the domestic release of the film (due to the fact that the repressive Franco – the fascist General, not Jess – regime was not keen on nudity in Spanish film), a still gallery, the theatrical trailer, the Spanish credit sequence and most interestingly, before you nod off, liner notes by author Mirek Lipinski – deinitely worth a read.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Well, the score is rubbish. Unfortunately de Ossorio didn't have the same composer he did on the Blind Dead films and The Loreley's Grasp. This is unfortunate, because the music is uniformly awful, and possesses all the atmosphere of a night of church-hall bingo. This really detracts from the film. The performances? Well, they're passable – seen much better, seen much worse. The story? Nonsensical in the extreme, and needed a lot more polishing and a couple more edits. This actually looks like a first time film-maker's debut, rather than the work of a man who'd been making feature films for nearly twenty years by this point. Is it enjoyable? Yeah, sure. I had fun watching it, although I don't know when I'll watch it again. Out of the de Ossorio films I've seen, this is one of the least. It tries quite hard to deliver, but never really gets there in the end. I get the impression that this film simply did not know what it wanted to be – vampire film? Were-wolf film? Voodoo film? Zombie film? If only it could have focussed itself more, it might have risen above the rather mediocre level that it reached. It grasped at straws all the way down – a noble failure.

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