• The Astrologer (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 25th, 2020.
    Director: James Glickenhaus
    Cast: Bob Byrd, Mark Buntzman, James Glickenhaus, Alison McCarthy, Al Narcisse, Monica Tidwell, Ivy White
    Year: 1975
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    The Astrologer – Movie Review:

    Alexei Abernal (Bob Byrd) is the man in charge of an international organization known as Interzod, a group funded in part by the U.S. military, whose bizarre purpose seems to have been to develop the ability to predict potential for paranormal ability based on a mix of computer science and astrology. Based on their knowledge of the zodiac, they’re able to tell, based on someone birthday, whether or not they’ll be a force for good, or a force for evil.

    An Indian cult leader named Kajerste (Mark Buntzman) pops up on their radar, Alexei and his team are concerned about just how effectively he seems to be able to manipulate the members of his cult into doing his bidding. Their studies show that Kajerste, according to his ‘zodiacal potential,’ could be even more persuasive than someone like Adolf Hitler, which obviously everyone would like to avoid because Hitler was an evil fuck. Anyway, to address this, Alexei meets with Congressman Joe Harwell (Al Narcisse) who eventually travels to India to assassinate Kajerste. Kind of odd that a Congressman is sent on an assassination mission but that’s what happens, and it isn’t easy – first they have to drug him and then they have to implant pre-recorded videos into his mind that will, when the time is right, cause him to kill himself!

    While this is going on, Alexei’s beautiful new wife, Kate (Playboy Playmate Monica Tidwell) lands herself in hot water with her husband when he learns she’s been visiting a fortune teller, which somehow ties into a quest to uncover the actual birthdate of The Virgin Mary, which in turn ties into unlocking Kate’s paranormal potential. And yeah, this ties into the Second Coming somehow too. It gets… complicated.

    Or something like that. The Astrologist gets a little bit messy if you start to think about it too much. It is, however, a fun watch and a movie with a whole lot of appreciably weird and uniquely seventies atmosphere. The fashions, the furnishings, the astrological and zodiacal themes, the conspiracy theories and the overall look and feel of the movie just screams polyester and cocaine and it’s kind of great.

    Not all of the acting is awesome, but enough of it is, particularly when it comes to Mark Buntzman playing the Indian cult leader (he also pops up in Glickenhaus’ The Exterminator and directed the sequel!). When we first see him, he’s involved in a sex magic ceremony of some sort, a beautiful lady with a wonderfully chubby bum standing naked in front of him as he goes through his sinister rituals. It’s quite an entrance, and he’s got cool ‘evil cult leader’ make up on too. He steals every scene that he’s in. Bob Byrd is not great as the leading man, he lacks charisma and has a screen presence that is more goofy than it is intense. Al Narcisse is okay as our Congressman/assassin and Monica Tidwell does fine in her role and looks good doing it.

    The film is talkier than it should be, often times more into exposition than action, but it is reasonably well put together on a technical level. The cinematography is never amazing but it’s always decent. The use of dated seventies computer technology adds to the film’s wonderfully dated charms and hey, naked ladies.

    The Astrologer – Blu-ray Review:

    The Astrologer makes its Blu-ray debut from Severin Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k scan of Glickenhaus’ own answer print. There is some mild print damage noticeable throughout and some occasional scratches but the movie looks solid overall. Grain can look at a bit more prominent in a few darker scenes than the lighter ones but this looks like film, there are no problems with any noise reduction here nor are there any issues with noticeable edge enhancement. Colors are a bit uneven from scene to scene but overall look decent enough, as do skin tones. A solid transfer of some less than perfect elements.

    The DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in the film’s native English, sounds decent. Levels are balanced well enough and the track is pretty clean but some of the dialogue can sound a little on the hollow sound. The score has a little bit of depth to it at times, but range is limited. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Sign Of The Times: James Glickenhaus On The Astrologer is a ten-minute interview with the director, who sits in front of some boss looking sports cars and talks about how this definitely was a student film. He talks about the value of the experience that he got on this production, how he learned a lot simply by doing it, and what he likes and doesn’t necessarily like about the way that the picture turned out. He also covers how he feels the themes of the film hold up surprisingly well in modern day America and the films unorthodox distribution.

    In Monica Tidwell Remembers The Astrologer, the actress spends six-minutes in front of the camera talking about her memories from the shoot. She discusses how she got into modelling, doing a Playboy shoot, getting cast in The Astrologer, what it was like on set and how much she enjoyed working on the movie. She also talks about having to do the nude scene in the film and how she felt watching the movie after it was made.

    Tales From the Set spends fourteen-minutes with filmmakers Brendan Faulkner and Frank M. Farel, who worked as gaffer and assistant cameraman respectively on the picture. They note that, like many others involved in the production, they were making a lot of this up as they went along, not having had much in the way of professional experience before starting the job. They also talk about what it was like on set and some of the tensions that arose, working with producer/actor Mark Buntzman and Glickenhaus himself in addition to telling and interesting story about how the role of the gas station attendant was cast and what happened to the actor afterwards.

    Zodiacal Locations: The Filming Sites Of The Astrologer is an eight-minute segment that, as you’d guess, explores the locations that were used for the shoot. Fangoria’s Mike Gingold hosts this piece and he does a good job of showing us what some of the spots used in the film, most of which are in New York City or upstate New York, look like today as opposed to when the movie was made and in offering up some interesting history and trivia about some of the buildings.

    Menus and chapter selection are also included on the disc and Severin packages this baby with some nice reversible cover sleeve art (featuring the alternate Suicide Cult title).

    The Astrologer – The Final Word:

    The Astrologer is not a perfect film but it has that undeniably weird sort of charm that low budget seventies oddities tend to have and that goes a long way towards making it as interesting as it is. Severin’s Blu-ray release looks pretty decent given the elements available, and the extras do a nice job of documenting its history. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Astrologer Blu-ray screen caps!