Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lost Classics of the 1970's - Sorcerer (1977)

Detail art from the movie poster for Sorcerer (1977)

I'm just a movie watching guy these days. This morning I've been enjoying director William Friedkin's 1977 adventure film, Sorcerer. In a remake of 1953's Wages of Fear, Roy Scheider is one of four men hired to drive an unstable shipment of nitroglycerin through the rough roads and flooded jungle of an unnamed South American dictatorship. Beautifully shot, with palpable tension, as trucks slowly crawl across rope bridges and impossible obstacles it is a gut wrenching visceral experience.

Roy Scheider stars as a mafioso, on the run, who learns that there is nowhere to run. Sorcerer (1977)

Despite being a first rate film, Sorcerer was a huge financial bomb on it's original release, Director Friedkin has blamed the lack of success of the film on the reality that it opened at the same time as another little movie, Star Wars. While it is true that not much was able to stand up against the pure drawing power of the original Star Wars, I'm not so sure I can agree with Friedkin.

Francisco Rabal is a hitman, also on the run. Sorcerer (1977)

I'm of the opinion that Sorcerer's failure at the boxoffice was almost 100% because despite being an adventure film about truck drivers in South America, people convinced themselves it was going to be a horror movie. Sorcerer was Friedkin's first film since 1974's The Exorcist, which was one of the most influential and critically important horror films of all time. A movie that had so successfully scared the shit out of modern american that as far as the audience was concerned the only way he could top the Exorcist was to make an even better horror film. And besides it was named Sorcerer, so how could it not be a horror film. This is despite the fact that Friedkin had already directed the French Connection and was known for action. The trailer certainly doesn't push the horror vibe either. But never the less, once the first audiences went to the theater and discovered that what they were seeing was a taunt action film about truck drivers in South America instead of a scary movie, word of mouth got around and people stayed away in droves.

Which is a shame, because in its own right, Sorcerer is a very good movie. The four leads, Scheider, Amidou, Bruno Cremer and Francisco Rabal all put in strong performances. The film is beautifully shot, and the tension going throughout the entire film right up to it's shocking ending could be cut with a knife. 40 years on this film holds up. Fairly obscure, but worth the time, Sorcerer is yet another example of 1970's gold at the movie theater.