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Friday, May 1, 2020

‘The Astrologer’ Blends Religion and Science in a Strange, Trippy Tale [Blu-ray Review]

The Astrologer is a weird-ass movie. After recently watching this debut film from director James Glickenhaus, that’s my main takeaway. Well, that and the fact that this is the perfect double feature companion to Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To.

Alexie (Bob Byrd) is a scientist that works for a secret government agency. This agency studies zodiac signs and does so to find the second coming of Christ. This seems like a pretty weird thing for a government agency to do given that whole separation of church and state thing, but then the government doesn’t typically make a lot of sense. 

Furthering the weirdness is the fact that this agency seems to have unlimited funds. Alexie travels on private jet all over the world and does so on a whim. That’s not cheap. And the government goes to great lengths to keep this agency very secret. So much so that Alexie’s wife, Kate (Monica Tidwell) doesn’t even know about it. I assume managing a cover-up is pricey.

Anyway, Alexie is way into finding Christ 2.0. And his wife may be Virgin Mary 2.0? At the very least she’s very much involved with something Christ-like. The specifics weren’t entirely clear to me, but Alexie and Kate haven’t had sex yet. This is discussed plenty. And that’s enough for Alexie to assume she must be a virgin.

Somehow tied into all of this is a cult in India that may or may not be Satanic. I assume Satanic because the leader appears to be searching for the second coming of Christ as well and I’m pretty sure he wants that second coming dead. At least I think.

I realize I’m saying “I think” a lot, but that’s because I don’t entirely know or understand what was going on with this one. What I do know is that this movie is definitely in some way, at least to some degree, about a suicide cult, Christ 2.0, Virgin Mary 2.0, Satan, and the government. Oh, and at some point, there is a race car and someone just uses it as if it’s their everyday driver. It’s incredibly bizarre but oddly mesmerizing. 

This was the first film from Glickenhaus and it’s quite a bit different than the more popular works the director would go on to make. Glickenhaus is primarily known for his action work, with titles like ThExterminatorThe Protector, and Shakedown. It does share the grittiness, however. Also, this being his debut explains the use of the race car – Glickenhaus is a noted collector of racing vehicles. The race car still makes absolutely no sense in the context of the story, but anything you can do to up the production value on a low budget indie, especially a debut film, is a win. Hard to top a freaking race car.

The most fascinating aspect of The Astrologer, aside from the race car, is the way it blurs the line between religion and science. These are two things typically viewed like water and oil; you can’t mix the two. My sixth-grade teacher very clearly told our class one day that you can’t believe in aliens and God. This film takes the opposite approach and interlinks the two, tying them both into an elaborate government cover-up. There is definitely someone out there that believes this to be true.

Special Features:

  • Sign of the Times – James Glickenhaus on The Astrologer
  • Monica Tidwell Remembers The Astrologer – Interview With Actress Monica Tidwell
  • Tales From the Set – Interviews with Filmmakers Brendan Faulkner and Frank M. Farel
  • Zodiacal Locations – The Filming Sites of The Astrologer
  • Suicide Cult Reversible Cover

The special features included are primarily interviews. Glickenhaus does his interview with a race car behind him, no less. He discusses what it was like to make the film, the fact that it was his debut, and touches on some government stuff. Tidwell gets into her memories of making the film and how she became involved. The one non-interview bonus feature, Zodiacal Locations, is my favorite of the bunch. I’m a sucker for anything that takes a look at set locations and in that regard this delivers. As an added bonus, Michael Gingold serves as our tour guide.

The Astrologer lacks the excitement and thrill of the director’s action work but nonetheless is an intriguing little title worthy of seeking out. It’s another strong entry in Severin’s ever-growing library of high-strange weirdness.

The Astrologer is now on Blu-ray from Severin Films.


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