Sorcerer (1977) – Movie Review

Director William Friedkin will always be known by film fans as the director of 2 classic 1970s films from totally different genres, The Exorcist and The French Connection.

After The Exorcist, he decided to direct an action thriller titled Sorcerer, a remake of Henry-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 landmark French thriller Wages of Fear and set in South America about four men on the run from the law who are each offered $10,000 and legal citizenship if they will transport a shipment of dangerously unstable nitroglycerin to an oil well 200 miles away. 

What was originally planned as a $2.5 million budgeted small project, the film ended as a $22 million disaster production, dismissed at the time of release by both movie watchers and critics. The fact that it opened the same week as a little film called Star Wars didn’t help, and fans were a little confused by the title, maybe expecting a more fantasy type film as opposed to the gritty and sweaty thriller that was up on the screen.

The lead actor Roy Scheider is excellent as the main character, trying his best to stay positive and get through the task at hand, knowing that this will get him away from the hellhole he has ended up in. The role was originally offered to Steve Mcqueen, who loved the script but didn’t want to go to South America to film it as he was not long married to his new wife Ali Mcgraw and didn’t want to leave her, he tried to persuade the director to move the production to the USA and asked if Ali could be a producer but Friedkin said no. While you can see Mcqueen in the part, all the actors who took the roles are great, and being almost unknowns adds to the documentary feel of the production.

Tension is at its height throughout the film, but especially during the bridge crossing scene during a fierce storm. The editing and sound design are perfect, and it really is technically brilliant, done without any special effects. You can feel the dirt and sweat of the awful place where these men have ended up, and to finally top everything else a superb score by Tangerine Dream gives the film an almost surreal feel. The opening half-hour of the plot gives the backstory of the men involved and how they ended up on the run, while this may seem slow-paced, and it does affect the film slightly, once you get past this then it’s a superb story of desperation and what men will do to improve their worth.

The film bombed at the box office and was forgotten by many but has recently been remastered and shown in cinemas to great acclaim and this was followed by a special edition Blu-ray release. A genuine forgotten classic and totally recommended.

8.5 out of 10

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