Sorcerer Blu-ray Review
Here’s a trivia question for you. The most anticipated film for 1977 was a 20th Century Fox release. Can you name it? If you said STAR WARS, give yourself a big red X! No, the film was THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT. Based on a popular best seller, the film was in such high demand by theatre owners that Fox was able to make a deal with them. If you promise to play this little film called STAR WARS we’ll make sure you play THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT. Of course, STAR WARS went on to be, well….STAR WARS!! The film played so long (it played for over a year in the theatre I worked in) that many films were lost in the shuffle. In fact, many of the theatres that were playing STAR WARS decided to pass on THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT. One of the films that were overlooked was SORCERER. Released a week after STAR WARS, the film died at the box office. Even the popular Grauman’s Chinese Theatre couldn’t sell tickets. They played STAR WARS for a week, got SORCERER and, on the next Friday, rebooked STAR WARS, where it played through June 1978!
The story goes like this: four men on the run from different parts of the world find refuge in the South American jungle. Nilo (Francisco Rabal) is a hit man. Kassem (Amidou) has just blown up innocent people in Israel. Victor (Cremer) is involved in a banking scandal in France. And Jackie (Scheider, in one of his greatest performances) was the wheel man on a church robbery where the priest shot was the brother of the local New Jersey mafia leader. The four find themselves doing menial labor when nearby oil rigs are vandalized. The only way to cap the wells is to use dynamite. However, all of the dynamite in the area has sat for so long that the sticks are dry. All of the nitroglycerine has leaked out into the cases, making them highly volatile to move. It is decided that the only way to get the explosives to their needed destination is by truck. A tryout is held in the town for able bodied drivers and four men are picked. Nilo is not one of them but, as is the nature of his business, he is around to fill in when the fourth man turns up unexpectedly dead. What follows is a 218 mile journey that will make your knuckles white by the time it’s finished.
Coming off back to back successes like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, for which he won the Oscar for Best Direction, and THE EXORCIST, William Friedkin could do no wrong. When he pitched his proposed “remake” of the French film THE WAGES OF FEAR. Universal jumped on the project. As the budget grew and grew, they asked for assistance and Paramount came on board. In the 1970s, joint productions were not rare. 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers teamed up to produce THE TOWERING INFERNO. Friedkin was the king of Hollywood and knew it. He was also very full of himself. Hollywood took notice when a photo of him directing THE EXORCIST was released. He was sitting in a director’s chair with his name and the film’s title etched on it. Also included was the image of an Academy Award. (He did not win the Oscar for directing THE EXORCIST, that honor going to George Roy Hill for THE STING.) So when SORCERER was released, critics were ready to take the filmmaker down a peg. And they did so in spades. Which I really don’t understand because the film is classic Friedkin. Great characters, a great setting and one of the most incredible scenes ever put on film, which takes place when the nitro-laden trucks have to traverse a swinging rope bridge in a horrible rain storm. With each sway of the bridge or bump of a box you expect to join the drivers as they are blown to bits. Little things, like the fact the bride being married at the church has a black eye or how Scheider’s innocent question of “where am I going” continues to haunt him as the journey progresses, make the film top notch. The above mentioned bridge-crossing scene make it a “must watch!”
If I have one complaint it is that the film is not presented in its entirety. Missing is a, if I remember correctly from when I saw it in the theatre, 10 minute “overture” that set the mood in the theatre. Sitting in the dark and hearing the fantastic Tangerine Dream score is a memory I’ll have forever. And what a great score, composed only from reading the script. I subtracted half-a-point for the missing opening sequence.
THE SORCERER BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this is one of the best transfers of a film from the 1970s that I have ever seen. The images jump off screen and the jungle foliage is so vivid you can almost reach out and touch it.
Audio: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the sound equals the quality of the video. The only Academy Award nomination the film received was for Best Sound and it has been done justice with this transfer.
Sadly, with the exception of the 38 page Digi-book package, there are no extras included in this package. The book includes plenty of photos and excerpts from Friedkin’s book “The Friedkin Connection,” in which he does his best to blame everyone but himself for the film’s success. In one piece he recalls Roy Scheider as having been “bitter” when Friedkin did not cast him as Father Karras in “The Exorcist,” as if that was a valid reason for the film’s lack of boxoffice. It should be noted that Friedkin had wanted Steve McQueen in the role, though he would later say that Scheider gave a great performance. I would have loved to have heard a director’s commentary, especially as Friedkin refers to the film as his favorite of his films. Also included is a nice letter from Friedkin thanking everyone involved in the restoration and compilation for the Blu-ray.