Starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer and Fransisco Rabal
The works of director William Friedkin can be described as gritty and dramatic, with a touch of devilishly dark comedy (although not all the time). From such great early 1970’s films such as THE BOYS IN THE BAND, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE EXORCIST, to the guilty pleasure of the 90’s erotic thriller, JADE, and his most claustrophobic and recent dark works BUG and KILLER JOE, all his films have the tendency to make us, the viewers, feel incredibly uneasy. Friedkin’s ability to create films that unnerve as well as entertain marks him as one of the few American auteurs still working today whose films always achieve what they set out to accomplish.
Some of Friedkin’s lesser seen films, like the incredibly controversial and thoroughly terrifying, CRUISING, have come to see a resurgence in popularity with time. One of these films includes SORCERER, a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s thriller, THE WAGES OF FEAR. Thanks to the new director-approved digital restoration, the film looks and sounds absolutely stunning. And despite its deceiving title, there are no witches or warlocks to be seen anywhere in this movie.
The lengthy prologue opens in Veracruz, Mexico, where we see an assassin take out his target. In Jerusalem, a group of terrorists attempt a bombing that doesn’t go as planed. In New Jersey, a gang robs a church only to be intercepted by an act of carelessness. And in France, a corporate thief abandons his life when the authorities begin to investigate fraud allegations. Four men all from different backgrounds and each escaping the law have all come to live in a small South American village taking on cheap labour jobs while concealing their identities. When an oil well 200 miles from the village they live in suddenly explodes, there is only one way to extinguish the fire, and the four men have been contracted to courier nitroglycerin to the site.
While SORCERER could be broken down into 4 or 5 separate parts, I like to think that the film is divided into two: before the journey, and the journey itself (with an epilogue, which would make for a third part I guess). While everything that happens before the journey is particularly important to the story and background of the characters and events, it isn’t until exactly half-way through the running time that the movie truly begins to get exciting. Once the four men have packed up the two trucks and begin to traverse the dirt roads and overgrown jungle with their explosive cargo, there is no turning back. SORCERER works so well in creating tension and scenes of utter suspense that I found myself covering my eyes or sitting at the edge of my seat unable to anticipate what would happen next.
This is an adventure movie unlike any other I have seen in a long time, and could be pulled off by none other than Friedkin himself with his signature gritty themes and filmmaking style. Friedkin is known for his explosive temper on set to get what he wants, and here yet again, we can see the effects of his heavy demands, including his using helicopters to simulate a storm, or demolishing 12 different cars to get the perfect crash. SORCERER is a movie that was overlooked upon its release back in 1977, and it’s a shame that it didn’t get the recognition it deserved at the time. The scene where the massive trucks cross the rickety rope bridge is reason enough to see this film. Simply, this is William Friedkin at his very best, and now modern audiences have the opportunity to appreciate what original audiences missed at the time.
How many sheep would you give Sorcerer?