Warlock (1989 film)

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American theatrical release poster
Directed by Steve Miner
Produced by Steve Miner
Written by David Twohy
Starring Julian Sands
Lori Singer
Richard E. Grant
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography David Eggby
Edited by David Finfer
Distributed by Trimark Pictures
New World Pictures
Release dates
January 11, 1991 (USA)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $9,054,451

Warlock is a 1989 American cult horror film produced and directed by Steve Miner and starring Julian Sands, Lori Singer, and Richard E. Grant. It was written by David Twohy with a soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. The story concerns an evil 17th century warlock who flees to the 20th century in pursuit by a witch-hunter.


The Warlock (Sands) is taken captive in Boston, Massachusetts in 1691 by the witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Grant). He is sentenced to death for his activities, including the bewitching of Redferne's bride-to-be, but before the execution Satan appears and propels the Warlock forward in time to 20th century Los Angeles, California. Redferne follows through the portal.

The Warlock attempts to assemble The Grand Grimoire, a Satanic book that will reveal the "true" name of God. Redferne and The Warlock then embark on a cat-and-mouse chase with the Grand Grimoire, and Kassandra, a waitress who encounters Giles attempting to use a witch compass to track the Warlock. Explaining some basic rules of the Warlock, such as their weakness to purified salt, Kassandra follows Giles after seeing the compass work and knowing the warlock stole her bracelet putting an aging spell on her.

The Warlock assembles two thirds of the grimoire, and Giles is stunned to learn that the last portion is buried in his grave, buried off of church lands under the cursed sign of a witch. The Warlock appears and starts a ritual to assemble the Grimoire. After seeing the name of God appear on the book, the Warlock is about to call it out and unmake existence when Kassandra injects him with saline, and he bursts into flame. Redferne returns to his own time. In the epilogue, Kassandra is seen burying the Grimoire in the Great Salt Flats.



Screenwriter David Twohy first conceived the story as a reversal of what the film ultimately became. "I spent, if not wasted, a good six to eight weeks trying to make the warlock somebody who was persecuted during the witch craze of the 17th century, and came forward to this time and experienced much the same persecution here for other reasons," he commented to Cinefantastique Magazine.[1] Twohy revised and refined the story, but had to compromise some of his ideas due to limitations of the budget.

Because the film begins in the colonial United States, director Steve Miner insisted that the leads were portrayed by British actors. "They'd been off the boat for five years, ten years at most. They're English," he quipped.[1] Producer Arnold Kopelson suggested Julian Sands, but it was director Miner who decided to cast Sands against type as the evil Warlock instead of goodhearted Redferne.[1] Sands had been offered many roles in horror movies and initially wasn't interested. "When I first got the script, it sat around for a while because I didn't think it was my kind of thing," Sands remarked in a 1991 interview.[2] "When I read it, I saw it was a black comedy rather than a slasher-type film [and] was very happy at the prospect of working with Steve." With Sands committed to star, Miner's idea of casting Withnail & I star Richard E. Grant as the warlock could have fallen through but he decided to audition him anyway and was so impressed that Grant was given the role of Redferne.[3]

Problems arose with actress Lori Singer, who was reportedly difficult[4] and caused headaches for makeup man Carl Fullerton.[5] An elaborate series of makeups to progressively age Singer had been designed, tested and approved. However, on the day of her transformation into a 40 year-old, Singer refused to wear any prosthetics, forcing the makeup men to resort to stippling, shadowing and having the actress don a gray wig.[6] For her 60-year-old incarnation, she agreed to wear prosthetics on her cheeks and chin but refused to let them put appliances on her nose or eyes.[6]

The bulk of the movie was shot on location around the United States. The opening 17th century sequence was filmed at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, and later scenes were shot in the Boston area.[7] The farmhouse with the iconic red barn is the George Washington Faulkner House, which was open to the public with an annual pumpkin patch attraction for many years.[8] Because of the logistics of the special effects involved, however, a graveyard was erected on a soundstage in Los Angeles for the climactic finale.[1][3]

The post-production optical effects work was to have been supplied by Dreamquest Images but they were replaced by Perpetual Motion for budgetary reasons.[1][6] The warlock possessed the ability to conjure bolts of ectoplasm which he hurled at unsuspecting foes,[1] but this proved problematic and had to be toned down since it could only be achieved through animation. Unfortunately, no one from Perpetual Motion was available to supervise on the set, so the crew had to shoot background plates and plot the effects on their own and hope that the FX team had the proper materials to work with.[6]

Deleted Scenes[edit]

Due to a variety of factors, several scenes were cut, reshot or altered in post-production. Several deleted scenes are glimpsed in the theatrical trailer and other photographs and information have surfaced.

The Channeler or Breaking Woman[edit]

In the original version of the channeling sequence, actress Mary Woronov ripped open her blouse to reveal the "Eyes of Satan" in place of her nipples. The Warlock freezes her and pushes her to the floor, making her body shatter. Then the Warlock stomps on her chest to retrieve the eyes. This shot was cut after test screenings resulted in laughter at the prosthetic breasts and disapproval over the violent nature of the channeler's death.[6][4][5]

Special effects man Carl Fullerton was unavailable to return for the reshoot[6] and though Sands returned,[4] the editor opted to recycle a shot of the Warlock kneeling down over the channeler's broken body instead of a new shot of the actor. The film was far enough in production and a quick glimpse of the frozen body with the Warlock beside it was included in the trailer. There are videos on Internet which feature the scene, but only as a reconstruction based on the remains of the original footage.[9]

Rooster Compass[edit]

One promotional shot showed the Warlock squatting down inside a circle with a rooster tied to the center. This was explained in the novelization as a compass that the Warlock uses to track down Redferne and Kassandra. The film omits any explanation as to how the Warlock found the two in the airport.

The Unbaptized Male Child[edit]

In a 1991 interview, Julian Sands revealed that the fate of the boy was intended to be shown. "But that was a little close to the bone -- especially for the little boy," he joked menacingly.[2]


Although completed in 1988 and released to other countries the following year, Warlock fell into release limbo in the United States when New World Pictures suffered financial difficulties, and it was shelved for two years. The film was eventually picked up by Trimark Pictures and given a limited release beginning in January 1991.[10] The film turned into a modest success for Trimark, grossing $9,094,451 and becoming the company's biggest grosser until Eve's Bayou.[11]


The film received mixed reviews, and was heavily compared to The Terminator.[12][13][3] Despite a variety of issues with the projection during his viewing, The New York Times critic Vincent Canby praised the movie as "unexpectedly entertaining, having been concocted with comic imagination."[14] People Magazine said it was "modestly entertaining low-budget fantasy adventure — distraction enough if you're not in too demanding a mood."[12] On the flip-side, L.A. Times critic Michael Wilmington claimed there was "No wit or humanity, or even any genuine horror."[13] Entertainment Weekly denounced the special effects for being "so low-budget they might have come out of a joke shop,"[13] and TV Guide declared that the "aging make-up used to show the effects of Kassandra's curse is not at all effective--a particular problem in that she's a major character and is on screen much of the time."[15]


Original Release[edit]

Jerry Goldsmith's score for the film was released in the United States by Varese Sarabande and in the UK by Silva Screen Records in 1989.[16] Running roughly 54 minutes, these original releases featured numerous deviations from the final film versions and several cues were omitted.[17]

Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith
Released 1989
Genre Soundtrack
Length 53:48
Label Varese Sarabande/Silva Screen Records
No. Title Length
1. "The Sentence"   4:03
2. "I'll Wind"   2:06
3. "The Ring"   2:16
4. "The Trance"   5:31
5. "Old Age"   4:10
6. "Growing Pains"   5:34
7. "The Weather Vane"   5:01
8. "Nails"   4:24
9. "The Uninvited"   4:54
10. "Salt Water Attack"   8:42
11. "The Salt Flats"   7:07

Expanded Version[edit]

In March 2015, Intrada Records released a 72 minute "expanded" score restored from the 2" masters of the original recording sessions.[18]

Warlock (Expanded)
Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith
Released 2015
Genre Soundtrack
Length 72:02
Label Intrada Records
No. Title Length
1. "The Sentence"   4:12
2. "I'll Wind"   2:11
3. "Time Warp" (Previously Unreleased) 1:33
4. "The Ring"   2:32
5. "Like a Father" (Previously Unreleased) 2:06
6. "The Trance" (Contains Previously Unreleased Material) 6:19
7. "Old Age"   4:14
8. "The Rope" (Previously Unreleased) 0:51
9. "Growing Pains"   5:34
10. "He Was Here" (Previously Unreleased) 2:57
11. "The Weather Vane"   5:09
12. "Nails"   4:32
13. "The Terminal" (Previously Unreleased) 1:28
14. "A Witch Among Us" (Previously Unreleased) 4:13
15. "The Uninvited"   5:01
16. "The Headstone" (Previously Unreleased) 2:39
17. "Salt Water Attack"   8:52
18. "The Salt Flats"   7:25

Sequels and Spin-Offs[edit]

  • A sequel was made in 1993 and titled Warlock: The Armageddon, again starring Julian Sands. Although Sands portrayed the same character, there was no other through-line. "Our film is a totally different story from the original Warlock," commented director Anthony Hickox. "It's as though the original film didn't happen."[19]
  • The screenplay was adapted into a novel by Ray Garton, released by Avon Books in 1989.[20] This novelization includes additional/alternate details which didn't make it into the final cut of the movie.
  • As part of deal with Lions Gate Entertainment, Bluewater Productions released a Warlock comic book series in 2009.[21] The 4-issue series featured an original storyline with the Warlock on a mission to destroy a book which had imprisoned a group of his peers.[22] The series contained a few references to the original film and one of the two covers of the first issue was derived from the movie's poster art,[22] but the company was unable to attain the rights to use Julian Sands' likeness.[23][24] "The Warlock character in the comic series definitely has similar character traits to Sands' Warlock, but I decided to make him a different character," remarked writer Nick Lyons.[23]

Copycat Murder[edit]

In La Ronge, Saskatchewan in 1995, 14-year-old Sandy Charles told police that he had been contemplating suicide but "a spirit" told him to kill someone else.[25] On July 8, Charles and an unnamed 8 year-old accomplice lured 7 year-old Johnathan Thimpsen into a secluded area behind Charles' home and attempted to break the boy's neck. When that failed, they tried to kill Thimpsen by stabbing him four times in the head and neck with a pairing knife, but when the blade became lodged in the boy's eye[26] they beat him with a beer bottle and rock and ultimately suffocated him.[27] They then cut 10 to 15 strips of flesh from Thimpsen's body,[28] boiled it on a stove and allegedly drank it.[27] Thimpsen's body was discovered three days later.[29]

In court, lawyers on Charles' behalf argued that he had become obsessed with the film Warlock and that the murder was based in part on the premise from the movie that drinking the boiled fat of a virgin can give one the ability to fly,[28] though Charles claimed he did not drink the boiled fat of his victim because he "just wanted to stay the way [he was]".[13] Regardless, the case brought the issue of violence in movies to the forefront in Charles' native Canada and is reported to have influenced the county's decision to enable parents to use the V-chip to censor violence in cable television.[13]

Because of their ages, Charles was put on trial as adult and his accomplice, identified in court only by the initial M.,[26] was not charged. In August 1996, Charles was found not guilty by reason of insanity.[25] Following his trial he went on to reside at the high security Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon and was briefly relocated to the Saskatchewan Hospital in June 2013,[30] but was transferred back to the RPC facility that September.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kimmel, Daniel M. (March 1989). "Warlock: Supernatural Terminator". Cinefantastique 19 (3): 22–23. ISSN 0145-6032. 
  2. ^ a b Jakicic, Kathy (12 April 1991). "For Sands, Being Bad is Good". The Milwaukee Sentinel
  3. ^ a b c Waren, Bill (February 1989). "It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Warlock!". Fangoria (O'Quinn Studios, Inc.) (80): 24–27. ISSN 0164-2111. 
  4. ^ a b c Spelling, Ian (April 1991). "The Wit and Wisdom of Warlock". Fangoria (O'Quinn Studios, Inc.) (101): 42–44, 61. ISSN 0164-2111. 
  5. ^ a b Murray, Will (July 1989). "Makeup Men Get No Respect". Fangoria (O'Quinn Studios, Inc.) (84): 43–44. ISSN 0164-2111. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Biodrowski, Steve (May 1989). "Warlock: Director Steve Minor drops a Ken Russell inspired horror effect due to audience titters". Cinefantastique 19 (4): 17. ISSN 0145-6032. 
  7. ^ imdb Warlock Filming Locations
  8. ^ “Pumpkin Patch” Review of Faulkner Farm
  9. ^ "Warlock : The Channeler's Original Death Scene". YouTube. 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  10. ^ "Company Credits for Warlock". imdb.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31. 
  11. ^ "Trimark Top 10 Movies". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31. 
  12. ^ a b Novak, Ralph (1991-04-15), "Picks and Pans Review: Warlock", People Magaine, retrieved 2015-09-20 
  13. ^ a b c d e Wilmington, Michael (1991-01-17), "Movie Reviews : Witchcraft Without the Craft in 'Warlock'", The L.A. Times, retrieved 2015-09-20 
  14. ^ Canby, Vincent (1991-03-30), "Movie Review Warlock (1988) Review/Film; A Warlock Scheming in Los Angeles", The New York Times, retrieved 2015-09-20 
  15. ^ "Warlock Review: TV Guide". TV Guide. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  16. ^ Soundtrack Collector: Warlock
  17. ^ INTRADA: Warlock Expanded Soundtrack
  18. ^ INTRADA Announces Jerry Goldsmith's WARLOCK
  19. ^ Bacal, Simon (April 1993). "Warlock the Armageddon: Julian Sands returns in the sequel to the 1991 shocker, but is it a franchise?". Cinefantastique 23 (6): 6–7. 
  20. ^ "Warlock Paperback by Ray Garton". amazon.com. Retrieved 2015-09-20. 
  21. ^ "Warlock : Comics : Bluewater Productions". Bluewaterprod.com. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  22. ^ a b "BLUEWATER PRODUCTIONS' WARLOCK -- A ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW". Comics Continuum. 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2015-09-20. 
  23. ^ a b "Nick Lyons Talks Warlock". Comics Monsters. 2009-05-30. Retrieved 2015-09-20. 
  24. ^ "Nick Lyons: Releasing the Warlock". Comics Continuum. 2009-05-09. Retrieved 2015-09-20. 
  26. ^ a b Boy of 14 saw horror movie 10 times...now he's on trial for the killing that shook a nation; 'He stabbed victim, 7, and boiled his flesh'.
  27. ^ a b Berger, Joe (1996-08-13), "Devil Worshipper, 14, Boils 7 year-old into soup - and drinks it!", Weekly World News: 4, retrieved 2015-09-20 
  28. ^ a b c "Sandy Charles transferred back to Saskatoon facility". Global News. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  29. ^ Youth Killed and Skinned Young Playmate, Court Hears
  30. ^ Sandy Charles to be moved to hospital in North Battleford

External links[edit]