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Initiation of Sarah, The

Arrow Video // Unrated // March 24, 2022
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted June 15, 2022 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:


Not to be confused with the 2006 remake of the same name, The Initiation Of Sarah is a 1978 made for TV movie directed by Robert Day which follows the story of Sarah Goodwin (Kay Lenz). When we meet her, she and sister Patty Goodwin (Morgan Brittany) are saying goodbye to Sarah's adopted mother (Kathryn Grant) and heading off to college just in time for pledge week. Pretty Patty gets accepted into the fancy ‘hot chicks' house lorded over by bitchy Jennifer Lawrence (Morgan Fairchild) thanks to mom's connections but no such luck for Sarah. She gets accepted into one house and one house only, and the woman in charge there is a creepy older lady named Erica Hunter (Shelly Winters).


As the two sisters go about their business, Sarah befriends a girl named Alberta (Tisa Farrow), nicknamed Mouse because she's a bit on the shy side. When Sarah runs into Patty one afternoon, Jennifer tells her that as part of the pledge she's not allowed to talk to anyone from Sarah's sorority, and while she obviously feels bad about it, she goes along with it. Something is off with Sarah, however. It almost seems as if she can move things with her mind and it was likely no accident that Jennifer fell into the water fountain on campus after getting in a tizzy. Soon enough, Sarah hits it off with a TA named Paul Yates (Tony Bill) and it looks like things are going to improve for her but Jennifer sets up a nasty prank at Sarah's expense and before you know it, Jennifer learns that Sarah is far more dangerous than her quiet demeanor would suggest.


Does this movie sound an awful lot like Carrie set on a college campus? That would be because it is an awful lot like Carrie set on a college campus. There's no denying the similarities here, the movie borrows pretty heavily from De Palma's Stephen King adaptation right down to a scene in which the central female lead is humiliated and degraded in front of all of her classmates, the impetus for the revenge that happens in both films. As derivative as this is, however, it's still a pretty entertaining movie in its own right.


The cast, really, is what makes this one worth checking out. Kay Lenz is quite good in the lead role, she makes for a sympathetic central character and she handles the part well. We believe that she cares about her sister and when they're split up and kept apart by Jennifer, her sadness is realistic enough to set up the conflict that quickly arises. Morgan Fairchild as Jennifer is also good. She's made a pretty good career out of playing sexy, privileged, bitchy women and even here, in a fairly early role, we see she has a knack for it. Tony Bill is also good as the love interest, he seems like a pretty solid guy and we like him enough that we want he and Sarah to get together. Throw in the always loony Shelly Winters and Zombie's Tisa Farrow and you can see how, derivative or not, this would turn out to be a fun little throwback. It's reasonably well-paced and it builds to a satisfying, if fairly predictable, conclusion.


The Video:


Arrow Video brings The Initiation Of Sarah to Region A Blu-ray framed in 1.33.1 fullframe in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. Taken from a "Brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative by Arrow Films," the picture quality here is rock solid. The elements used were clearly in very nice shape as while there's a good amount of natural films grain present, there isn't much in the way of actual print damage at all. Colors look great, detail is quite strong and the disc is free of noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues.


The Audio:


The only audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Quality of the track is strong. Dialogue remains clear and easy to follow throughout. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced.


The Extras:


Extras start off with a new audio commentary by always reliable TV Movie expert Amanda Reyes. She goes over the fact that this made for TV movie has been released on home video a few time, which isn't common for made for TV movies, details on pretty much every one of the cast and crew members involved in the picture, the look of the film, how thrillers were popular at the time with the networks and how this one looks back to both the gothic films and current trends in horror, the rich female relationships that are important to the film and how the maternal relationships factor into things, locations that were used in the film, how the film tries to balance adult content with concepts that would have been marketed to teens and plenty more.


From there, we dig into the new featurettes created for this release, starting with Welcome To Hell Week: A Pledge's Guide To The Initiation Of Sarah, which is an appreciation by film critic Stacie Ponder and Queer Horror programmer Anthony Hudson, co-hosts of the Gaylords Of Darkness podcast, celebrating the film through a queer feminist lens. This sixteen minute piece peels back the layers of the film as the two hosts explore what it is that they love about the movie and why. They talk up the different cast and crew members, the 'sister power' aspects of the story, the mean girls sorority and more.


Cracks In The Sisterhood: Second Wave Feminism And The Initiation Of Sarah is a visual essay by film critic and historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. This piece runs for fifteen minutes and it details the film's emphasis on transition and how that theme runs throughout the movie, the transformation between the old and the new and how this ties into the themes of sisterhood as portrayed in the film and how all of this ties into second wave feminism and the women's rights movement that was happening in the United States at the time.


The Intimations Of Sarah is an interview with film critic Samantha McLaren "looking at witchcraft, empowerment, TV movies and telekinetic shy girls post-Carrie." She spends sixteen minutes going over the importance of home video theatrical movies and how TV executives were trying to get viewers back, trying to make the movies on a low budget but with recognizable stars and maybe some controversial subjects, the marketing behind some of these movies, the influence of Carrie and the different made for TV knock offs that came in its wake, suggestions of nudity that the filmmakers made in the film, the queer themes that exist in the movie primarily between Mouse and Sarah and the different arcs that Sarah goes through in the movie.


The Initiation Of Tom is an interview with Tom Holland on this his first film writing credit. He speaks for nine minutes about how he took acting classes and got a theatrical agent, some of his early jobs doing commercials, getting a contract with Warner Brothers, working with Pacino and Harrison Ford, moving on to doing plays and meeting screenwriters who wanted to direct, adapting the treatment for Flowers In The Attic and then providing the treatment for The Initiation Of Sarah and what changed from his original version to the version that made it to TV screens.


Finishing up the extras are a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Arrow packages the disc with some reversible cover sleeve art and, for the first pressing, a color insert booklet containing an essay on the film as well as credits for the feature and the Blu-ray release.


Overall:

The Initiation Of Sarah is undeniably derivative but so too is it a lot of fun. Arrow's done a nice job bringing the film to Blu-ray with a strong presentation and some decent extra features highlighted by a really strong commentary track. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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