Sorceress II: The Temptress (1997) — Sex Magick

Matty takes a look at a serviceable sequel with a few points of note for Jim Wynorski buffs and fans of Julies Smith and Strain.

By the time Sorceress (1995) hit video store shelves in January ‘95, producer/director Jim Wynorski and star Julie Strain were already gearing up for a sequel. Scheduled to shoot in May on an old slave plantation in Florida, Wynorski gave a typically no-frills summary of SORCERESS II: THE TEMPTRESS’ (1997) plot in Femme Fatales: “Bad girls mess with voodoo and lesbian hell breaks loose.” [2] Soon, however, Wynorski was knee deep in The Wasp Woman (1995), and come the back end of the year, Sorceress II was handed to the impresario’s Midnight Tease II (1995) helmer, Richard Styles, working from a story now described as “The Firm (1993) meets The Omen (1976)”. Finally lensing in early ‘96, Strain headlined — albeit as a completely new character — and the rest of the ensemble was completed by Gregg Wrangler; Sandahl Bergman; Jenna Blair; Katherine McGregor; Jay Richardson; an uncredited Ross Hagen [3]; and Strain’s fellow Andy Sidaris favourite/Styles’ Midnight Tease II starlet/future Wynorski stalwart Julie K. Smith.

Bookended by the original Sorceress’ opening and closing scenes, the repurposed footage — interspersed with fresh material to establish and conclude Sorceress II’s new narrative — initiates a series of stylistic, rhythmic, and structural tics that suggest Wynorski had a firmer artistic grip on the film than his ‘producer’ billing suggests. Wynorski cameos twice [4], indicating that he was, at least, a presence on the film’s set, and numerous sequences are padded out by snippets pulled from the B-movie titan’s library, with Hard to Die (1990), 976-EVIL II (1991), and Chuck Cirino’s scores for Sins of Desire (1993) and Body Chemistry 3: Point of Seduction (1994) all plundered. While Wynorski has always made excellent and imaginative use of preexisting footage (cf. Not of This Earth (1988), Transylvania Twist (1989)), Sorceress II is effectively the blueprint for his heavier ‘stock epics’ such as The Escort 3 (1999) and the wealth of action programmers he’d shepherd for mentor Roger Corman and frequent collaborator Andrew Stevens (Militia (2000), Raptor (2001), Rangers (2000), Ablaze (2001) et al). Further still, Sorceress II appears riddled with a boat-load of Wynorski-centric in-jokes in terms of character names. A chemist is mentioned called Jim; Wrangler’s lead, Paul Stevens, is presumably a nod to CineTel’s Paul Hertzberg and the above-noted Andrew, two of Wynorski’s most enduring creative partners; and Marshal Hilton’s good guy wizard, Zoran, is likely a homage to one of Wynorski’s go-to DPs, Zoran Hochstätter (The Return of Swamp Thing (1989), The Haunting of Morella (1990) etc.).

As for the film itself — well, Sorceress II is what it is: OK enough, but of noticeably lesser quality than its magnificent predecessor. Written by Styles, the script’s blend of black magic and big business evokes pleasing memories of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) and Wes Craven’s oddball TV flick Invitation to Hell (1984), but, like Wynorski’s Hard Bounty (1995), its intriguing feminist bent is nullified by Strain’s coven-cum-pharmaceutical company being revealed as lapdogs to a higher, male power (Christian Noble, deadweight). Though the chills are non-existent compared to those in the excellent first flick, Sorceress II delivers on the eroticism. Having said that, it’s not because of any major aesthetic or technical contribution — ironic considering Styles’ surname. Cinematographer Gary Graver unleashes a few interesting compositions reminiscent of his striking work in Sorceress 1.0 but, on the whole, this is a much cheaper and rushed-seeming offering with as much visual pizzazz as public access television [5]. Rather, the film’s greatest asset — its crotch-quivering sauciness — is the result of Strain and Smith’s arresting performances. Wickedly thirsty, the sexually charged pair exude a brilliantly siren-esque menace as they manoeuvre Wrangler through Noble’s sinister scheme. Delectable, dangerous, deadly — and on a purely salacious level, they look astounding in their signature moments: Strain, clad in a spiked dog collar, PVC gloves and boots, riding some unsuspecting stud like a National winner; and Smith, sauntering around the film’s mid-section in her finest Lair of the White Worm (1988) headscarf-and-shades garb. 

Filmed and also known as ‘Legion of Evil: Sorceress II’, Sorceress II was given its Temptress subtitle by distributor New Horizons when they released it on U.S. cassette in summer 1999. Temptress was among the prospective titles for the first film but changed when Wynorski learned that pal and New Horizons boss Roger Corman — who had nothing to do with Sorceress, but did produce a swords-and-sorcery flick of the same name in 1982 (which, incidentally, Wynorski co-penned) — had a Temptress (1995) of his own in the pipeline. A second sequel, ‘Sorceress III: The Sweet Spell of Success’, is jokingly teased in Sorceress II’s credits.

[1] Via Triboro, with whom the helmer and his then-shingle, Sunset Films International, had a domestic output deal.
[2] Femme Fatales, Vol. 4, No. 1, Summer 1995.
[3] Hagen also narrated the film’s trailer and the promos for several of other movies Wynorski produced under his Sunset banner; Hard Bounty, Street Corner Justice (1996), and Against the Law (1997) among them.
[4] Both prominently and as an extra — the latter of which, really, contradicts what happens to him in the former role…
[5] As an aside, I guess you could argue that the drab approach fits with Sorceress II’s theme of how capitalism and tradition often operate in tandem — but, hey, I’m probably reaching.

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