Showtimes and Venue July 24, 2014 - 6:30pm, July 25, 2014 - 8:20pm, July 28, 2014 - 8:20pm & July 31, 2014 - 6:30pm | The Cinematheque, 1131 Howe Street

Reviewer John Jane

When I first saw this film on its initial theatre release in 1977, I may have been one of the few patrons that admitted to actually liking it. William Friedkin's self-claimed chef d'oeuvre was a box office bust. The famously troubled production suffered from its own curiously inappropriate title which may have tempted audiences to associate it with Friedkin's much ballyhooed film, The Exorcist.

The other reason for its less than stellar reception was pure bad luck. Its release coincided with that of George Lucas’s Star Wars, which effectively changed Hollywood’s way of story-telling for the next couple of decades.

Sorcerer is an intentional remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic film Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear). It follows four desperate men (Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, and Amidou) from disparate criminal proclivities who end up in a South American hell-hole. An American oil company calls for four drivers to undertake a suicide mission that requires transporting a cargo of unstable nitroglycerin over 200 miles of daunting terrain.

The film opens with four separate brutal back-stories that inform how and why the protagonists wind up in the hell-hole. They take place in four different cities: Vera Cruz (Francisco Rabal), Jerusalem (Amidou), Paris (Bruno Cremer) and New Jersey (Roy Scheider). Friedkin's suspense thriller really picks up pace in the second half as these four anti-heroes in two dilapidated trucks battle the elements, the jungle and armed bandits - motivated by a reward of $10,000 and legal status.

Apart from Roy Scheider’s tour-de-force performance, the film features stunning cinematography of the Dominican Republic (far away from the deluxe resorts) and Tangerine Dream's atmospheric music score.

© 2014 John Jane