Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Initiation of Sarah – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1978
Director: Robert Day
Writers: Don Ingalls, Carol Saraceno, Kenette Gfeller, Tom Holland
Cast: Kay Lenz, Shelley Winters, Tony Bill, Kathryn Grant, Morgan Fairchild, Morgan Brittany, Robert Hays, Tisa Farrow, Elizabeth Stack, Deborah Ryan, Nora Heflin, Talia Balsam, Michael Talbott

Release Date: June 20th, 2022 (UK), June 21st, 2022 (USA)
Approximate Running Time: 96 Minutes 49 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (USA)

"Shy misfit Sarah Goodwin (Kay Lenz, House), has a secret gift: the ability to control -- and destroy -- with her mind. When Sarah goes off to college with her more outgoing and popular sister, Patty (Morgan Brittany, Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat), their plans to join the most prestigious sorority on campus are scuttled by snobby president, Jennifer Lawrence (Morgan Fairchild, Phantom of the Mall). Separated from her sister, Sarah is taken in by a rival, less popular sorority, whose mysterious house mother, Mrs. Hunter (Shelley Winters, The Night of the Hunter), is harboring a secret of her own: a scheme to harness Sarah's terrifying power for revenge. Betrayed by Patty, humiliated by Jennifer, it can only be a matter of time before Sorority Hell Week erupts in flame!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution at Company 3, Los Angeles. The film was graded and restored at Dragon DI, Wales.

All materials for this restoration were made available by MGM."

The Initiation of Sarah comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 38.7 GB

Feature: 25.8 GB

The source used for this transfer looks great. Color saturation and image clarity are consistently strong, black levels look very good, and grain remains intact.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English, and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio sounds clean, clear, and balanced.


Extras for this release include an image gallery (6 images-stills/poster), an interview with filmmaker Tom Holland titled The Initiation of Tom (8 minutes 58 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with film critic Samantha McLaren looking at witchcraft, empowerment, TV movies, and telekinetic shy girls post Carrie titled The Intimations of Sarah (16 minutes 19 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a visual essay by film critic and historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas titled Cracks in the Sisterhood: Second Wave Feminism and The Initiation of Sarah (14 minutes 48 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an appreciation by critic Stacie Ponder and Queer Horror programmer Anthony Hudson, hosts of the Gaylords of Darkness podcast, celebrating the film through a queer feminist lens titled Welcome to Hell Week: A Pledge’s Guide to the Initiation of Sarah (16 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary by TV Movie expert Amanda Reyes, reversible cover art, and a twenty-page booklet (limited to first pressing) with cast & crew information, an essay titled “We’re your sisters now”: Bonds in The Initiation of Sarah and Sorority Horror Films written by Lindsay Hallam, From Pariah to Power: Transgressive Abilities in The Initiation of Sarah written by Alexandra West, information about the restoration, and production credits.


Known for their wild premises, 1970’s made-for-TV movies of the week are a treasure trove of films that are ripe for rediscovery. A case in point is The Initiation of Sarah, a made-for-TV horror film that bears a striking resemblance to Carrie.

Many 1970’s made-for-TV movies tried to capitalize on a successful theatrical film, or a sub-genre of films that were popular at that time. Satanic themed films were once such a sub-genre that made for TV movies would take on. Another sub-genre would be telekinesis themed horror films, which were made in response to Carrie.

That said, there’s no denying Carrie’s influence throughout The Initiation of Sarah. The result is a film that stands well on its own. Most notably, when it comes to elements that are related to the sorority girls and how they torment those who they feel are inferior to them.

The cast is filled with many recognizable faces. The standout performance belongs to Kay Lenz (House) in the role of Sarah Goodwin, the protagonist who uses telekinesis when she gets angry. Another performance of note is Morgan Fairchild (The Seduction) in the role of Jennifer Lawrence, the quintessential mean girl. Other notable cast members include Tisa Farrow (Zombie) in the role of a sorority sister who goes by the nickname Mouse, Robert Hayes (Airplane!) in the role of a jock named Scott Rafferty, and Shelley Winters (Lolita) in the role of Mrs. Hunter, an unbalanced den mother who dabbles in the occult.

From a production standpoint, The Initiation of Sarah’s positives outweigh its negatives. Sure, the premise will give you Déjà vu. Fortunately, the cast's enthusiasm ensures that there’s rarely a dull moment. That said, when it comes to the special effects, they’re obviously hampered by an anemic budget and the limitations of television. Ultimately, The Initiation of Sarah is a highly entertaining film that fans of 1970’s made-for-TV movies should thoroughly enjoy.

The Initiation of Sarah gets a first-rate release from Arrow Video that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a wealth of extras, recommended.

Written by Michael Den Boer

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