Tuesday 30 April 2013

The Sorcerers - The Original Screenplay by John Burke

The Sorcerers, directed by Michael Reeves and starring Boris Karloff and Ian Ogilvy, has long been a favourite British horror movie of mine. Filmed in 1967 at the height of "flower power", this was set contrastingly in a dank, depressing suburb of London, capturing a mood of pessimism and boredom that may be out of kilter with the more fashionably seen mood of the time but was probably truer for most people then.

Now PS Publishing are bringing out The Sorcerers - The Original Screenplay by John Burke - edited by Johnny Mains.

Introduction - Jean Burke
Introductory Essay - Dr Matthew Sweet
The Sorcerers Discord - Johnny Mains
Sorcerers Treatment - John Burke
Sorcerers Screenplay - John Burke
The Sorcerers Happening - Ben Halligan
Original DVD linear notes - Kim Newman
Michael Reeves Biography - Tony Earnshaw

Filmed on a tight, almost negligible budget, The Sorcerers was the second film directed by Reeves, who only made one more, Witchfinder General, before his early death.

Credits for the film have always been "Script by Michael Reeves and Tom Baker" based on an "idea by John Burke". Johnny Mains, who became close friends with John Burke in his final years, discovered, though, that these fail to reflect reality. Inside a plain cardboard box, John Burke showed him his early treatment for the film, plus the screenplay, headed:
"The Sorcerers"
Screenplay by
John Burke
Michael Reeves
Tom Baker

When he read this, Johnny's astonished response was to exclaim: "And when the film came out your name was dropped from the screenplay credits and you were relegated to 'from an idea by'. John, do you realise how important this all is?"

Sadly, a few months later, John Burke died, but Johnny was sent the cardboard box by his son. He decided there and then to do something to set the record straight. There followed the mammoth task of tracking down people who would, importantly, give him permission to reprint copyrighted material pertaining to the film, and to bring together an assortment of articles by experts on the subject, including Dr Matthew Sweet, Ben Halligan, Kim Newman and Tony Earnshaw.

Having already been given the opportunity to see Dr Sweet's Introductory Essay and Johnny's The Sorcerers Discord I can say that this is going to be one barnstormer of a book, one that anyone interested in 1960s British cinema, particularly the horror genre, will want to read.

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