The history of cinema is full of unsung heroes, those whose work is often forgotten and overlooked, those who don't get the recognition they deserve and in the case of John Burke, someone whose name has all but been struck from the history of a particular film.
Thankfully for us there are people like the brilliant and passionate Johnny Mains. Johnny is one of those people who I like to call a Guardian of The Genre. He works tirelessly to not only preserve the history of horror, but also to ensure that the cultural importance of this genre is recorded and recognised.
Previously Johnny has published a fantastic biography on Herbert Van Thal, the man behind Pan Book of Horror Stories as well as the critically acclaimed anthology Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories. This time Johnny has turned his attention to John Burke.
For those of you who don't know who John is, he was a great writer, who wrote in many genres, from the Atlantic Award in Literature winning Swift Summer, to Science Fiction, horror and even a load of film and Television novelisations. However this book centres around his screenplay for the film The Sorcerers.
The film, which was directed by Michael Reeves and staring Boris Karloff concerned hypnotist Professor Montserrat who has developed a technique for controlling the minds, and sharing the sensations, of his subjects. He and his wife Estelle test the technique on Mike Roscoe, and enjoy 'being' the younger man. But Estelle soon grows to love the power of controlling Roscoe, and the vicarious pleasures that provides. How far will she go, and can the Professor restrain her in time.
However it was the fact that for all intents are purpose John Burke's name was removed from the film. You see John wrote the screenplay for this film, and yet his only credit for the film is a 'From an idea by John Burke' It was only in a 2003 biography of Reeves that this fact became know to the wider population.
Which brings us to Johnny's fantastic book. The Sorcerers collects together all the proof and documentation of John Burke's actual place in the history of this film. Johnny has collected letters received by John, a full reprint of the film's shooting script, and more importantly the version of his script before it was altered by Reeves and Tom Baker.
Complimenting these are a wonderfully moving introduction from Johnny, a fascinating insight from film guru Kim Newman, a chapter from Reeves biography, and a message from Burke's widow, all rounded off with some revealing stills from the film.
The Sorcerers as a film has a very important place in horror history and Johnny's book does this film and more importantly John Burke a tremendous service. You can tell that was a labour of love for Johnny. It provides a fascinating insight into not only the film and those associated with it, it also gives the reader an insightful snap shop of the era itself.
With The Sorcerers Johnny Mains has produced an exceptional book that will appeal to not only film fans but also fans of horror fiction. This is another clear example of why Johnny is such an important figure in the horror genre. The dedication and the amount of hard work that he puts into projects like this is a joy to behold. You need to own this book, it's that plain and simple. I learned a huge amount from this, to the point that I am now on a quest to track down as much of Burke's writing as possible.
File Under Horror Novel Review