Next month sees Steve Miner’s 1989 action-fantasy Warlock finally making its DVD premiere in the UK. I can still remember seeing the film on VHS back in the early nineties, which was pretty much the only option; it had the occasional screening on Sky but to the best of my knowledge never showed up on terrestrial TV. And so, unless you imported the panned-and-scanned Lionsgate disc from the US, this new disc should mark the first time many will be able to see the film in a number of years. Indeed, it should be fairly safe to assume that Second Sight (as with their releases of Vanilla Ice vehicle Cool as Ice or The Garbage Pail Kids Movie) are aiming this release primarily at video nostalgists or those who recognise Warlock’s cult-ish appeal. It was, after all, a product of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, directed by Miner when he was known as a horror director (House, Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3) rather than a more mainstream one, and features game performances from Julian Sands, Richard E. Grant and, in a single-scene cameo, Mary Woronov. It also provided an early credit for screenwriter (and future director) David Twohy before he worked on Waterworld, The Fugitive and the Riddick movies.
In terms of plot, Warlock essential pits good vs. evil in a time travelling context. Sands’ evil warlock (“the rudest that ever troubled daylight”) is about to be executed for his crimes in 17th century Boston, but following some time-lapse cloud special effects surfaces in Lori Singer’s house almost 300 years later. Good guy Grant (sporting a bad accent - presumably Scottish) follows and attempts to track him down before he can undo creation. There are, of course, elements of The Terminator and Highlander in this mix, but happily Warlock - much like its first sequel, the agreeably gory Warlock Armageddon - knows it’s trashy and derivative. As such it simply sticks to being a briskly paced, no-nonsense romp with few pretensions. The dialogue - specifically Singer’s - is jokey without making hard work of it, the effects are as rubbery/ropey as we would hope for a film of this vintage, and the filmmakers also chuck in the Amish and the sight of Grant’s 17th century man freaking out on an aeroplane.
Of course, it’s not brilliant but it is good fun. Just as Warlock made perfectly good rental material back in the early nineties, so too it does today. Which is probably the best option as Second Sight have decided to issue the disc without a solitary extra. Rather the single-layered disc presents only the film itself, although it must be said that the transfer is pretty good. Licensed from Fox, here we get Warlock in its original aspect ratio, taken from a clean print and demonstrating few discernible flaws. Likewise the soundtrack, present here in its original stereo. Given the quality, it’s a shame that Second Sight didn’t decide upon a Blu-ray release; seeing as Arrow have just issued another New World production onto HD - Richard Wenk’s Vamp - perhaps there’s a market for eighties video hits.