Sorcerer: A Forgotten Classic Finally Gets the Blu-ray Release It Deserves
Sorcerer is a lost classic that pushes the boundary of cinema and holds up well because of its practical effects, timely plot and singular artistic vision. The 1977 remake of the 1951 film Wages of Fear revolves around four men who take the dangerous job of driving nitroglycerin through the jungles in order to put out a massive oil well fire. It is dirty, tense and you are worried for the actors safety as they wade through jungle water and drive over the worst bridge ever (which cost three million because of location changes and drought).
Directed by William Friedkin (Exorcist, French Connection) the film got lost in the 1977 hubbub of Star Wars. It was a disaster that went overbudget due to location shooting, drought and the unpredictability of mother nature. Friedkin’s hubris didn’t help as he wanted total artistic control and turned down actors like Steve McQueen and Robert Mitchum. His insistence on location shooting whittled down much of his crew and proved to be incredibly dangerous. Friedkin did an interview with Yahoo where he discussed the perils:
It was dangerous. I mean, it was way beyond what I would do today. I would never risk my own life and the lives of others the way I did on this film,” says Friedkin, who contracted malaria and lost some 50 pounds after the shoot. “It was extremely dangerous to do so much of it, and I had a kind of sleepwalker’s certainty that I could pull it off and that nobody would be hurt. But it was life threatening. The scenes on the bridge, a lot of the driving, much of which the actors did themselves.
The film disappeared and became a lost classic. Eventually, Friedkin won the rights back and now the film is becoming embraced. Sorcerer is one of Tarantino’s favorite 12 films and the Blu-ray release has been getting cinephile coverage ad nauseam. I had a sinking suspicion that Sorcerer is a classic case of the building up of a decent film over years of being mythologized. Happily, my suspicions were assuaged as I sat glued to my seat watching the primal man vs. nature tale. It is an unloved classic that might be one of the best remakes ever (The Thing is the best). Also, the cast is fantastic and you believe 100% they could succeed where many others would fail. Their all-in acting certainly wouldn’t happen today.
Watch Sorcerer. Appreciate an artistic vision. Never accept a mission driving explosives through untamed jungles.