Blu-Ray Review- Sorceress
Distributor: Scorpion Releasing
Street Date: August 19th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Working with the same cost effective formula established at AIP, Roger Corman’s New World Pictures delivered an array of memorable B-movie goodness throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Made for only half a million dollars, Sorceress would go on to gross roughly 4 million dollars at the box office, and become a late-night cult staple of premium television entertainment on HBO and Cinemax.
Sorceress begins in unintentionally hilarious campy fashion, with the wizard Traigon in hot pursuit of his wife in the forest, who has run away from him after giving birth to their twin daughters. Traigon had plans to sacrifice his first born child to their God Caligara, but is unsure which daughter was born first. The Gandalf-esque wizard Krona shows up to save the day, leaving Traigon dead, but not before he promises to resurrect himself and finish the job. Traigon’s wife leaves her twin daughters to Krona, who promises to raise them as warriors, but then promptly leaves them with a trusted friend. You get an immediate sense of the camp value involved here with the forced line delivery, bad dubbing, and cheap effects during the battle between Krona and Traigon’s guards.
Several years pass, and Traigon returns with the help of his hairy-pit female companion and a man in a monkey suit. The twins, Mira and Mara, are grown up now and played by Playboy playmates Leigh and Lynette Harris. They’re trained warriors now, catching arrows with their bare hands, glowing bright blue at random times (for unexplained reasons), and swimming naked in lakes while being watched by a horny goat man. When their adoptive parents are killed, they come across the Barbarian Erlik and Baldar the Viking, who join the girls in their journey to defeat Traigon before he can fulfill his promise to Caligara.
When watching a film like Sorceress, you have to put things in perspective. I don’t think there’s any way you could call this a quality film, but New World Pictures was never aiming for Oscar material. This is pure Roger Corman B-movie goodness, with plenty of poorly choreographed action scenes, ample sex and nudity, and genuine laughs (both intentional and unintentional). There’s even a lion-bat hybrid God, which Corman had created and filmed in post to reflect the already made poster. Sorceress falls into the “so bad it’s good” category of cult classics, and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it in High Definition.
Scorpion Releasing has conjured Sorceress onto the Blu-Ray format with a solid High Definition presentation. The film grain is intact and authentic, colors look accurate, and fine object detail is impressive for the most part. You can see a surprising amount of detail in the recycled Corman costumes and set dressing. The bottom line is that the picture quality is consistent throughout, with only a handful of scenes exhibiting some anomalies (scratches, pops, etc.). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for me personally, those anomalies are part of the fun for B-movie genre films. Scorpion Releasing has done a fine job on the transfer.
The DTS-HD Mono track isn’t quite as strong as the video presentation, but it certainly gets the job done. The dialogue, sound effects, and the score come through just fine, but seem a bit “tinny” and lack the dynamic range of a multi-channel effort, which is to be expected. I was satisfied with the presentation, especially given the nature of the film.
Scorpion Releasing has provided fans of Sorceress with select interviews and trailers on this new Blu-Ray edition. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- The Magic Behind Sorceress: An Interview with Roger Corman– This interview with the legendary Roger Corman runs nearly seven minutes and details the production of Sorceress in surprising depth given the runtime. From the initial budget and filming restraints to the sexy Playboy Playmate Harris twins, and the low budget special effects to filming in Mexico, we get to hear quite a bit about the making of the film. Corman, as always, is a delight to listen to. He seems to remember the production on each of his films so well on these interviews with Scorpion and other distributors, which is great for the fans!
- The Illusion Behind Sorceress: An Interview with John Carl Buechler– This extended interview runs nearly 16 minutes and features Special Effects technician John Carl Buechler discussing his work on the film. Buechler discusses starting the production after working on Galaxy of Terror, being asked by Corman to pick-up Don Post masks from Famous Monsters of Filmland and manipulate them for the film, deciding to sculpt his own masks after all, and other fun insights into the low budget effects for the movie. He does a killer Roger Corman impression to boot! Buechler is hilarious, and his on-set stories are so much fun for fans of the film.
- The Incantation Behind Sorceress: An Interview with Jim Wynorski- This roughly 10 minute interview with Screenwriter Jim Wynorski details his involvement on Sorceress, including being given a single week to write the script for the film (which Roger Corman requested after seeing the box office success of Conan the Barbarian), the last time he saw Jack Hill after he turned in a religious-themed final product, the re-editing and re-shoots involved, the inclusion of the horny goat man, and much more.
- Interview with Clark Henderson- The former head of Post Production for Corman, Clark Henderson spends this nearly 9 minute interview discussing his work on the production of Sorceress. The discussion of Corman and Hill’s conflict during the making of the film is fascinating. With this final interview featurette, we get a very well-rounded look into the making of the movie. Great stuff!
- Trailers- Roughly 9 ½ minutes of trailers for current and upcoming titles from Scorpion Releasing including: Sorceress, Space Raiders, Stripped to Kill, Sorority House Massacre, and Seizure.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scorpion Releasing features the fantastic original theatrical poster design for Sorceress, which according to Roger Corman, helped the film achieve great success. It’s the perfect sword and sorcery imagery, with the hybrid animal, barely dressed babe, and shiny steel weapons. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. On the interior of the case is a Blu-Ray disc that features the same theatrical poster design.
Sorceress falls into the “so bad it’s good” category of cult classics, and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it in High Definition. This is pure Roger Corman B-movie goodness, with plenty of poorly choreographed action scenes, ample sex and nudity, and genuine laughs (both intentional and unintentional). The video presentation looks clean and consistent, with natural film grain present and accurate color reproduction. The DTS-HD master audio track lacks the dynamic quality of a bigger production, but it gets the job done. The special features are the standout aspect on this Blu-Ray release, with wonderful interviews with the likes of Roger Corman, Jim Wynorski, and more. Scorpion Releasing put a lot of effort and passion into this release for B-movie fans, and they absolutely delivered. If you’re a fan of “so bad it’s good” cinema, then this is an easy recommendation.
Blu-Ray Review- Lake Placid
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: July 8th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 82 Minutes
The creature feature subgenre of Horror has always fascinated and terrified me, specifically, the aquatic monsters featured in movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jaws, Piranha, and many more. The thought of being attacked from beneath, unable to scream, run, or even hear your attacker coming, gives me nightmares. I feel safe and secure swimming at the lake that surrounds my family cabin, but to this day, I’m more than a little edgy going into the ocean. In 1999, television writer David E. Kelly and Director Steve Miner teamed up to release Lake Placid, which works as both a modern day take on creature feature concept and a witty homage to B-movie cinema.
In the film, Paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) is reluctantly sent to Black Lake, Maine to assist in the investigation of a Fish and Game officer who was bitten in half by an unseen creature from beneath the water. Once there, she joins local Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) and Fish and Game Officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman). They’re an odd crew to say the least, and tempers flare even more when egotistical Professor of Mythology Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) joins the search for the mysterious creature.
After a series of lethal encounters, including an overturned canoe, a severed toe, and the decapitation death of one of their crew, the team discovers that the creature they’re dealing with is a prehistoric 30-foot crocodile. And as it turns out, foul-mouthed lake resident Delores Bickerman (Betty White) knows more than she initially let on about this killer croc’s origins and feeding habits. As the bodies pile up, the team has to find a way to capture or kill this ancient behemoth to assure that the local community can be safe once more.
As always, I hesitate to say too much more about the plot of Lake Placid and let you enjoy this fun film for yourselves. Believe it or not, the main draw of the film (and repeat watch factor) is the witty and creative dialogue from screenwriter David E. Kelly. The dialogue is consistently fresh and playful, and the humor is very dark and fitting. Lake Placid plays more like a tribute or homage to the B-movie creature features of yesteryear than a straight horror film, but offers plenty of unique kills and bloodshed for those that require it. The characters are extremely well written, and in turn, creatively played by the cast involved, which is something unique for a film of this genre. I really enjoyed revisiting Lake Placid after all these years, and it’s the perfect summer entertainment for horror fans.
Fans of Lake Placid can rest assured that the film looks great in High Definition. Some of Scream Factory’s abundant admirers seemed worried that this transfer might be plagued with some of the picture quality issues that their most recent license from Fox (Ravenous) displayed. There is no reason for concern here, and point of fact, this is a strong video presentation. Film grain looks natural and authentic, and textures and fine object detail in clothing, crocodile scales, and the surrounding woods of the lake is very clear. Colors are also accurately reproduced here, with the golden-hued and forest green color scheme really coming to life. There are no signs of digital noise reduction, and the print is relatively free of artifacts or scratches, making for a fantastic video presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track featured here represents the film well on Blu-Ray. Dialogue, music, and sound effects are all equally balanced across your home entertainment system in a surprisingly dynamic presentation. From the larger scale action scenes (crocodile chomps, boat motors, helicopter blades) to the films quieter moments (birds chirping, crickets on the lake), this audio presentation is respectful to the source and enhances this fun B-movie for home viewing.
Scream Factory has given fans of Lake Placid the deluxe treatment on this brand new Blu-Ray edition. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- The Making of Lake Placid– This brand new HD documentary runs over thirty minutes and features interviews with the likes of Actor Bill Pullman, Director Steve Miner, Editor Marshall Harvey, Cinematographer Daryn Okada, and many more. The cast and crew discuss David Kelly’s witty script, the blend of animatronics and CGI used to bring the crocodile to life, the enormous water tank used in production, Betty White’s time on the set, and other fun details from filming. I especially enjoyed the story that Nick Marra (effects supervisor) told about the grizzly bear being scared of the animatronic crocodile. This is another standout job from Scream Factory and crew.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer is presented in standard definition and runs just under two minutes. This is a classic 90’s preview, with the “smoky” tone voiceover and recycled climactic music from Aliens, and offered theatrical audiences a good taste of the humor and mayhem from the film.
- Featurette- This featurette includes what appears to be carried over interview footage from the previous Fox DVD release that has been edited together with film footage from the new high definition transfer. It runs a little over five minutes, and is presented in standard definition.
- TV Spots- Roughly a minute and a half of television promos for Lake Placid that ran during the original theatrical campaign for the film. Like the aforementioned trailer, these little clips help establish the fun and campy nature of the film.
- Croc Test Footage- This is over seven minutes of camcorder footage (no audio) from the filming during the summer of 1998. Just a few test shots from the animatronic designers to make sure the mouth, nostrils, and eyes were working on the crocodile.
- Behind the Scenes Gallery- Over five minutes of fun behind-the-scenes photos and production stills from the making of the film. I especially enjoyed seeing the various camera rigs and mechanical elements used to make the crocodile come to life.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory includes newly commissioned artwork from artist Robert O’Brien. I love the postcard style utilized here, and really appreciate the minimalist approach that really evokes terror. It’s clean, simple, and uncluttered. On the reverse of the slipcover you’ll find a plot synopsis, production stills, a list of special features, and the technical specifications for this release. On the inside of the packaging, you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc with some nice artwork, and a reversible slip-sheet featuring the original theatrical poster design for the film. Very well done!
If you’re like me, and “creature feature” horror is your thing, you’ll get a kick out of Lake Placid. This self-aware B movie homage is well written, funny, and offers up more than a few “light” scares. It’s a shame that most of the subgenre films today are relegated to television films, because Lake Placid demonstrates how you can make a fun, campy, big-budget creature feature that is a hit with audiences and (most) critics alike. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features an outstanding video presentation with authentic film grain and natural colors, and an audio presentation with a surprisingly dynamic range. Special Features are top notch as well here, especially the brand new documentary made for this release. All in all, this might just be my favorite release from Scream Factory’s “Summer of Fear” thus far. Lake Placid comes Highly Recommended.