Sunday Matinee: Sorcerer

SorcererWilliam Friedkin decided to follow up his massive success The Exorcist with a remake of The Wages of Fear. The film was a box office failure at the time and critics weren’t very keen on it at the time either but it has gained much more favourable reviews in more recent years.

The film starts in Mexico with Francisco Rabal as he assassinates someone. It then moves to Israel where a group of terrorists sets off a huge explosion. After a chase two of the terrorists are caught, one is killed and the last, Amidou, escapes. The next vignette is set in France where Bruno Cremer has been accused of fraud and he has been giving 24 hours to repay the money. Things get bad and he has to skip town. The last set up takes place in New Jersey where a crew robs a church. The getaway driver is Roy Scheider. After a crash that kills everybody in the gang except Scheider, Scheider finds out that the church has mob connections and his life is now worthless. He makes an escape out of the country.

In a small village in South America, the four men are struggling to make a living, trying desperately to make enough to get out of the country. An American oil company has an oil field near the town and one of the rigs explodes. The nitroglycerin needed to stop the fire has been stored improperly and will explode with a slightest bump. It’s decided that the only way to transport the nitro is by truck through the jungle and the four desperate men volunteer for the job. They have to assemble their own trucks out of scrap. The two trucks are called Lazaro and Sorcerer (hence the title of the film). Thus the perilous journey transporting the nitroglycerin begins.

This a great film. Normally I dislike remakes but this film works. It doesn’t try to be The Wages of Fear, it tries to be it’s own movie. Both films are excellent. Sorcerer ended up being Friedkin’s Apocalypse Now. Friedkin decided to shoot the movie on location so it was shot in Mexico, Israel, France, the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. Most of the crew either got sick, hurt or quit / fired during the lengthy production. Friedkin himself ended up with malaria. The movie went over budget and ended being funded by both Universal Studios and Paramount.

The film had the misfortune of opening at the same time as Star Wars, the critics didn’t like it and audiences thought that with a title like Sorcerer, Friedkin was making another The Exoricst type film. The film did have it’s supporters like Roger Ebert who consider the movie to be an overlooked classic. Friedkin recently sued Paramount and Universal over the film so he could restore and re-release the film on Blu-ray. An agreement was reached and the film has been restored and has never looked better. It’s well worth checking out.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.

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