Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Sorcerer (1977)
(2017 Reissue)


Starring: Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou and Ramon Bieri
Distributor: Entertainment One
RRP: £24.99


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 06 November 2017

Four men from different parts of the world fall foul of the law in a big way (we see their individual stories) and end up in the Dominican Republic where, to earn the money they need to continue their respective journeys, they are obliged to accept a job driving two trucks carrying unstable gelignite across 200 miles of rough terrain to an oil fire which needs to be put out. The chances of success are very slim as the slightest jolt can signal instant annihilation. The job is made all the more difficult by the fact they don’t exactly see eye to eye...

40 years after its release Sorcerer gets a brand new launch – this time to generally rave reviews. Some say it is William Friedkin’s best work.

For many film fans Friedkin will need no introduction. He was the director of The French Connection (considered by many to be the ultimate crime thriller) and The Exorcist (one of the finest films ever made). By the time he proposed the notion of Sorcerer, in the eyes of backers, he could do no wrong. Universal Pictures and Paramount studios joined forces to welcome his new vision. Steve McQueen was first choice for the lead role. However, as he had just married he felt reluctant to jet off across the world for any length of time. Failing to convince the director to relocate to the USA, he pulled out and Friedkin went for Roy Scheider (who was currently popular with cinema audiences for his role in Jaws). Friedkin had a very solid arrangement for locations in the Dominican Republic.

Upon its initial release the film bombed. The majority of cinema goers were not overly enamoured, it seemed, and many critics were less kind. There were three main problems. Firstly, Americans weren’t attracted by the mostly foreign and unknown (to many) actors. Secondly, there were no heroes. Friedkin has never believed in them, citing that everyone is at least flawed. So all four main players are villains of one sort or another, allowing no audience relation or sympathy. In fact, the title Sorcerer is meant in the context of an evil wizard who manipulates events to his advantage – although much of what these characters try to do goes wrong, so you can’t even root for the bad guy. Mostly, it was down to bad timing though; it emerged in 1977 amidst Star Wars mania. The George Lucas film revolutionised overnight what cinema viewers expected from the experience.

Sorcerer was put on the shelf, so to speak, after around only two weeks and hasn’t seen the light of day until now. This is a momentous release (cleaned-up and presented on Blu-ray, with a reversible sleeve which gives the option of the film poster) because, although it’s not the best film you’ll ever see, it’s significantly superior to the treatment it originally received. We live in an age now whereby most individuals are prepared to give any film a try and judge it by its content and enjoyment factor, rather than on the year in which it was made, its budget or from what country it originated.

What you have to bear in mind is Sorcerer was done ‘for real’ – meaning there were no special effects. The trucks really drove along overhanging sheer drops, they really drove inch by inch across the dilapidated wooden swinging rope bridge, and they set real explosives to blow-up the huge fallen tree blocking their path. In fact, this last obstacle is overcome using a simple but clever timer device to allow them to be clear at the time of the explosion.

The screenplay to Sorcerer is by Walon Green, and is based on the novel The Wages of Fear, by Georges Arnaud. The music is composed and performed by soundtrack specialists Tangerine Dream. Friedkin asked them to score his next film after seeing them perform in an old church in Germany. The sound style sounds at times a lot like John Carpenter (no bad thing!), with a building of suspense and a definite relentlessness. There is no sentimentality here.

After ten minutes or so of abject confusion, the viewer begins to realise the background is being given to each of the four main character villains. The adventure really begins once we learn of the oil fire and the need for the sweaty gelignite. As with the minis escaping with the gold in The Italian Job, the main heart of the film is the potentially suicidal journey in the two trucks holding the explosives. The running time for this sequence goes by in a moment.

As an extra there is an excellent interview with William Friedkin wherein we witness his no nonsense manner and complete belief in the work he does. Friedkin says a lot of things that make sense, but we also capture an inkling of just why so many people couldn’t get on with the guy. It’s a real eye-opener and so gains an extra mark just for this inclusion.


Ty Power

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.