1977. Directed by William Friedkin.
William Friedkin's masterpiece, Sorcerer was a film that went through a very real production hell to simulate a purgatorial nightmare. Overshadowed by the release of Star Wars, Sorcerer was a critical and box office disaster. Recent re-evaluations have lauded it as one of the last great films of the strongest decade in American film making and I cannot agree more.
Four rogues have fled their homelands and are biding their time in a poor Latin America villa. Low on funds and unable to escape, they agree to drive two trucks full of unstable nitroglycerin 200 miles through a perilous jungle to stop an out of control oil fire.
The title is drawn from the name of one of the trucks, not necessarily anything supernatural. Friedkin has stated that the Sorcerer is fate, working against the four protagonists and intervening when they least expect it. The story is broken into unofficial chapters. The first segment deals with each of the primary characters being involved in a criminal endeavor: A hit, a terrorist attack, a mafia robbery gone wrong, and a financial scandal. Each scene was filmed in a different country and helps to support the framework of the story by showing how each man came to their current hopeless situation. Are these men already dead and living in the in-between? Roy Schieder's character's background involves a car crash and you can;t help but draw a parallel to Carnival of Souls.
Going 7 million over budget, Sorcerer took 10 grueling months to film. Various locations had to be scrapped and replaced due to legal issues, disease, and drought. The film's set piece, a heart stopping sequence of the trucks crossing a flimsy rope bridge took several months and cost millions. The entire bridge was constructed by the amazing John Box who had to disassemble it and move it to another country when the initial filming site, a river, dried up.
John Stephens and Don Bush's cinematography is the stand out. They manage to capture the desperation of the drivers in thrilling detail, with every drop of sweat and fleck of dirt filling the screen. Some of the visuals, such as the bridge and a pillar of fire, will leave you speechless. Make no mistake, you'll have to remind yourself to breath when you see it the first time.
Tangerine Dream's vivid score provides perfect tonal reflection of the ideas on display and merits recognition for it's amazing synthesized record of the men's nail biting sojourn.
The thing that I always comeback to when I view this is that it is a film that would never be made today. It stars four actors from different countries in a story that goes nowhere very very slowly. This is an existential dissertation on destiny and man's inability to affect it. It's debatable whether any of the characters survived their prologue stories, but ultimately, it doesn't matter. This is a simple, expertly crafted story with infinite depth in a dirty, stressful package. The journey itself is the seething black heart of Sorcerer and experiencing it as just that is essential.
Available now for digital rental, Sorcerer is a forgotten gem of 1970's cinema magic that is worth attention.