Michael Reeves – Film Director

With preparations for the Witchfinder General (1968) event on going swing, this blog will focus on the film’s director Michael Reeves.

Reeves was born in Sutton, Surrey on 17 October 1944 to a wealthy Anglo-American family. As a child he developed an obsession with cinema and by the age of 16, became a millionaire overnight following the suicide of his father. Reeves attended Radley College where he became close friends with actor Ian Ogilvy. Despite his wealthy lifestyle, he wanted to break into films on his own merits. Flying to Los Angeles, he approached director Don Siegel and asked for a job. Suitably impressed, Siegel hired him as his assistant.

Reeves later worked as assistant director to producer Paul Malansky on the Italian chiller Castle of the Living Dead (1964). Impressed by Reeves’ enthusiasm, Malansky allowed him to direct a couple of scenes. Malansky then hired Reeves to direct on Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966). Shot in 18 days on a $13,000 budget partly financed by Reeves, it was one of the better Italian horror films of the sixties.

Returning to England in 1967, Reeves bought the rights to John Burke’s novel The Sorcerers and completed a screenplay with school friend Tom Baker (not the Dr Who actor). He interested Tigon Films to bankroll the project. The Sorcerers stars Boris Karloff as Professor Monserrat a disgraced mesmerist who develops a mind controlling technique that enables him to share the sensations experienced by his subject, a bored young man named on Mike (Ian Ogilvy). When Monserrat’s wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey) enjoys the experiences too much, she starts controlling Mike’s mind to the point of committing murder.

Despite the low budget, The Sorcerers is an atmospheric film that boasts outstanding performances from Karloff and Lacey. Although Karloff enjoyed working with Reeves, Lacey found playing a sexually malevolent old lady very distressing. The Sorcerers became a critical success, winning the Golden Asteroid at the Trieste Festival. Reeves showed he was clearly a talent to watch out for and his next project turned out to be the crowning glory of his tragically short career.

Find out more in my next blog.

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