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Robert Day
Kay Lenz, Shelley Winters, Morgan Fairchild
Writing Credits:
Don Ingalls, Carol Saraceno, Kenette Gfeller

An introverted young woman possesses telekinetic powers that make her move to college a challenge.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/21/22

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Amanda Reyes
• “Welcome to Hell Week” Featurette
• “Cracks in the Sisterhood” Featurette
• “The Intimations of Sarah” Featurette
• “The Initiation of Tom” Featurette
• Image Gallery


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Initiation of Sarah [Blu-Ray] (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 16, 2022)

Given its title, one might expect 1978’s The Initiation of Sarah to offer a porn flick. Instead, it gives us a made-for-TV horror tale that ran on ABC back in the day.

Awkward teen Sarah Goodwin (Kay Lenz) possesses major telekinetic abilities. However, she attempts to bottle these up and lead a normal life.

When she goes to college, Sarah gets rejected by the popular girls and ends up at a sorority with less liked students, a fact that detaches her from her popular fellow freshman and sister Patty (Morgan Brittany). Housemother Mrs. Hunter (Shelley Winters) knows of Sarah’s abilities and intends to harness Sarah’s powers for her own advantage.

As this plot develops, Sarah finds herself more and more distanced from her sister and more frustrated with various domains. Will Sarah’s supernatural skills create issues along the way?

Spoiler alert: duh. Initiation wouldn’t offer much of a horror flick if it avoided the big hook of Sarah’s powers.

Truthfully, Initiation doesn’t really embrace the story’s terror as much as one might expect. It brings more of a “coming of age” tale with spooky overtones than a true frightfest.

Any similarities between Initiation and 1976’s Carrie feel intentional. Without the success of the earlier flick, it seems highly unlikely Initiation would exist.

That doesn’t mean that Initiation acts as nothing but a cheap Stephen King knockoff, though. While far from a great film – and not in the same ballpark as Brian De Palma’s classic - Initiation becomes a more than watchable effort.

If you get past the ages of the actors, that is. Lenz was 25 at the time, and her co-stars fell in the same range or older.

This becomes a minor distraction, but Initiation is far from the only offender in this regard. Heck, Carrie’s Sissy Spacek was 26 during that shoot and was supposed to play a high school student!

While a little long in the tooth for a college freshman, Lenz compensates with a surprisingly good lead performance. She makes Sarah appropriately introverted and also allows her “dark side” to emerge in a convincing manner.

The other actors do largely fine as well, albeit a bit on the campy side. Shelley Winters tended toward hamminess at this point in her career, and that doesn’t change here, but she manages to use that tone in an appropriate manner for this story.

As the “mean girls sorority” leader, Morgan Fairchild proves delectably bitchy as well. Brittany manages to walk the line between loyalty to family and to her new college friends in a largely appealing manner as well.

Probably the biggest issue here stems from my view that Initiation doesn’t have a lot to say beyond its Carrie influence, though. While it pursues these domains in a different manner – mainly because Mrs. Hunter understands Sarah’s abilities as well as her hidden past – the two still go down pretty similar paths.

This leads to a fair amount of padding. After a decent introduction, the middle section of the film tends to ramble some, as the story seems unsure how to connect expository act one and climactic act three.

Nothing about Initiation elevates it into great art. Nonetheless, given its existence as a TV movie Carrie knockoff, it works far better than it should.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

The Initiation of Sarah appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pretty good image for a late 1970s TV movie.

Sharpness usually worked well. A few slightly soft shots materialized, but the majority of the flick appeared accurate and concise.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Light grain implied no egregious use of noise reduction, and print flaws remained modest. I saw a handful of small marks, but these didn’t create prominent distractions.

Colors tended toward an earthy feel and they came across well. The hues seemed natural and well-represented.

Blacks came across as deep and dark, while shadows usually seemed fairly smooth. Some day for night shots brought murky visuals, but those inevitably stemmed from the source. Ultimately, the presentation brought a pleasant surprise, as I didn’t expect much from a 44-year-old TV movie.

On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA monaural mix of Initiation felt wholly ordinary for its era. That didn’t seem like a bad thing, but it meant no one should expect much from the track.

Dialogue sounded reasonably natural. Speech could come across as a little reedy, but the lines remained intelligible and without edginess or other issues.

Music and effects came across as acceptably clear but no better. They could sound a bit shrill and favored high-end, but they didn’t suffer from obvious distortion. Ultimately, this became an adequate soundtrack for an older TV film.

As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Amanda Reyes. She provides a running, screen-specific view of story and characters, cast and crew, various production areas, other genre films of the era and some connected domains.

Reyes delves into a lot of useful topics, and she gives us quirky facts like what TV competition Initiation faced and how it fared in the ratings. Reyes turns this into a solid track.

Some video features follow, and Welcome to Hell Week goes for 16 minutes, 33 seconds. It offers comments from critic Stacie Ponder and Queer Horror programmer Anthony Hudson.

“Week” looks at the movie “through a queer feminist lens”, which sounds like a potentially intriguing perspective. It seems like an unusual way to interpret the film.

Instead, Ponder and Hudson simply provide film-related basics from a campy POV. Though they briefly touch on the movie’s gay themes, there’s really no attempt to deliver a serious interpretation of the flick.

This means Ponder and Hudson just throw out catty remarks about the movie. Maybe some will find it amusing, but it seems like a tedious waste of time, as we get no actual insights or wit.

Cracks in the Sisterhood fills 14 minutes, 48 seconds with notes from film critic/historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. She discusses the movie from the perspective of “second wave feminism”.

Though not the most fascinating chat, she does give us some good insights. At least Heller-Nicholas provides a lot more interpretation than Ponder and Hudson do.

Next comes The Intimations of Sarah, a 16-minute, 19-second program with film critic Samantha McLaren. She looks at the movie in terms of genre, themes and various concepts. McLaren does the job we didn’t get from Ponder and Hudson to make this an informative piece.

Finally, The Initiation of Tom spans eight minutes, 58 seconds and brings remarks from story writer Tom Holland. He covers his career and involvement with Initiation during this short but interesting reel.

An Image Gallery includes a whopping six stills, five of which look like nothing more than fuzzy screenshots from a VHS copy of the movie. The sixth shows the movie’s misleading advertisement. Other than the last element, this becomes a waste of time.

While The Initiation of Sarah appears to exist solely as a TV movie ripoff of Carrie, it nonetheless manages to work fairly well. It does enough to separate it from Stephen King that it never feels like a shameless copycat, and a good lead performance from Kay Lenz adds value. The Blu-ray comes with better than expected visuals, adequate audio and a mix of bonus materials. Nothing here dazzles, but Initiation delivers a moderately engaging tale.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
2 3:
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