Jim Wynorski’s filmmaking career revolves around two key obsessions: genre fare and big breasts. Fittingly, his filmography pursues both fixations in equal measure, offering up a tidal wave of cheap and cheerful quickies that include action, horror, sci-fi and plenty of sexploitation. Most of those films feature more of one element than the other but occasionally Wynorski has gotten to pile on the cheap thrills and the cheesecake with equal vigor. Sorceress is a notable example of that double-fisted approach, mixing supernatural horror elements and name character actors with all of the silicone-enhanced bump & grind antics you’d associate with ‘90s Skinemax fare.
The plot of Sorceress is amazingly ambitious for softcore fare: Larry (Larry Poindexter) is a rising young lawyer in love with Erica (Julie Strain), a woman who secretly uses witchcraft to manipulate him and his career. She dies in a freak accident but not before using her skills to handicap Larry’s rival, Howard (Edward Albert). It just so happens that Howard’s wife Amelia (Linda Blair) is also a witch and she’s determined to get revenge on Larry for his girlfriend’s misdeeds, using Larry’s loving ex Carol (Rochelle Swanson) as a vessel to seduce and destroy.
However, don’t let the plot-heavy nature of Sorceress distract you: the storyline doesn’t make much sense, nor do the characterizations, but it doesn’t matter because they provide a more-interesting-than-usual setup for the sex scenes and gratuitous nudity. Wynorski uses the sexual content to exploit the eye-popping physiques of Strain and Swanson to the fullest and throws in a few other women with similar boob-job buxomness. Wynorski also has fun with the horror content, staging an unexpectedly cool stunt at the beginning and managing a fun kitchen-sink climax that pays off the plot via a bunch of dramatic cross-cutting.
The pro actors who appear between sex scenes are there to keep us from getting bored and do this job well. For example, Michael Parks gives an amusingly twitchy method-style turn as an accused murderer and the throwaway role of the law firm boss is enlivened by the fact that Wynorski gets William Marshall of Blacula fame to play this two-scene part. Blair is suitably professional as the misguided witch but it’s Albert who really stands out here, bringing genuine gravitas and sincerity to his role as the wronged rival. He’s way better than he needs to be and always compelling when on screen.
In short, Sorceress gives you the best of both worlds. It’s an agreeable straight-to-video genre programmer and a suitably lusty softcore grinder all at once. Who says you can’t have it all?
Blu-Ray Notes: Synapse picked up this flick for blu-ray reissue and has given a nice little presentation. The transfer looks great, making the most of the above-average photography by old pro Gary Graver, and the lossless presentation of vintage 2.0 mix sounds nice and crisp. Fans should note that this is the official home video debut of the uncut version (previous VHS and cable versions were either edited or optically censored via cropping).
There are also two commentary tracks. The first is a solo track by Wynorski. He’s an engaging speaker with a sharp recall of the production, offering his recollections of the different cast and crew members as well as a variety of interesting trivia about the shoot and locations (one house was owned by real witches!). The second track pairs Wynorski with friend Tom Savini and was recorded over drinks during a horror movie convention. As you might surmise, it’s lighthearted and comedic in tone: there’s a lot of wisecracks, particularly from Savini, and a bit of gossip (Wynorski’s not shy about discussing who was difficult to work with here). Fans of either man should check it out as they talk about a lot of their work outside of Sorceress.