Cult Movie: Heavy trucking with William Friedkin's Sorcerer

William Friedkin's Sorcerer is out on Blu-ray to mark its 40th anniversary
William Friedkin's Sorcerer is out on Blu-ray to mark its 40th anniversary


WILLIAM Friedkin made other movies besides The Exorcist but few were savaged to quite the degree as Sorcerer when it hit cinema screens in 1977.

A monumental box office lame duck, it cost a small fortune but recouped next to nothing at the box office. Critics hated it, audiences ignored it and Friedkin was left to lick his wounds over an ambitious project that just about ruined him.

The miserable reputation that the film still holds to this day is a trifle harsh however. Watching it again in its brand spanking new Blu-ray edition from Twentieth Century Fox, it’s a ton of fun –even if not always for the right reasons.

Perhaps it’s main drawback is that barely a single character on show throughout is even slightly likeable. That’s fine in some circumstances, but it’s a different matter altogether when you don’t give a hoot about the main players in a film where their lives are permanently in danger and you're suppose to feel and care for them.

Script writer Walon Green assembles a crazy bunch of shady characters that include Roy 'Jaws' Scheider as a small time crook who's part of a robbery raid on a wealthy church in which a priest is killed, while Francisco Rabal plays a heartless killer who assassinates a man in a South American hotel.

It turns out the dead priest is the brother of a Mafia don who is now hell bent on revenge. This revenge entails Scheider high-tailing it into South American exile, where his only hope of a new life is to join a bunch of other chancers in the dangerous task of transporting deadly nitro across the mountains.

It takes an eternity before anyone actually gets into a vehicle to try and get the gear across the rough terrain, but it's worth the wait – the hugely tense scenes where the trucks roll and wobble over collapsing rope bridges are truly unforgettable.

Beautifully shot and genuinely suspenseful, these are magic moments in an odd and overblown film, but there’s something in that overblown quality that makes Sorcerer enjoyable all the same.

This is a pure 1970s movie experience. That era when excess was all is the only time a poorly thought through vanity project like this could get made.

Thank God it did, as it’s a huge and unwieldy beast but a vastly enjoyable one at that.

There’s a suitably dream like – or, depending on your perspective, nightmarish – score from prog kings Tangerine Dream that makes the whole thing feel like a bad trip at times, and even when the film threatens to fall apart under its own complexity Sorcerer is still bold and crazy enough to make you smile at the sheer silliness of it all.

In this new Blu-ray edition the film looks superb and there are an impressive array of thoughtful extras to add to your viewing experience.

These include Sorcerers – A Conversation With William Friedkin and Nicolas Winding Refn which clocks in at an impressive 74 minutes, making it pretty much a feature of its own.

There’s also The Mystery Of Fate – a letter From William Friedkin to enjoy but, as always, it's the main event that packs the real punch.

Sorcerers is at times cold, aloof and lacking in anything approximating a heart – but as an example of beautiful looking 1970s movies which impress through their sheer scale and arrogance, it's something of an under-valued gem.