Blu-ray Review: Sorcerer

STUDIO: Warner | DIRECTOR: William Friedkin | CAST: Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 4/22/2014 | PRICE: DVD $12.96, Blu-ray $27.98
BONUSES: none
SPECS: R | 122 min. | Thriller | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

Not the disaster the critics proclaimed it was upon its release in 1977, nor the lost, under-appreciated masterwork that fans have championed in the subsequent four decades, William Friedkin’s (The Exorcist) solid, ruggedly handsome suspense thriller Sorcerer makes its Blu-ray debut in an outstanding Warner Digibook edition.

Derived from the same Georges Arnaud novel that inspired Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 French classic The Wages of Fear, Friedkin’s Sorcerer tells the tough-as-nails tale of four nefarious men from around the globe who find themselves on the run and end up in a dismal South American town. Hope, if you can call it that, appears in the form of an American oil company seeking drivers to haul two truckloads of unstable nitroglycerin through 200 miles of treacherous terrain. The four have nothing to lose and a payment of cash to gain, so they each agree to take on the task, where an explosive death is only a bumpy road away.

Sorcerer movie sceneRoy Scheider, hot off Jaws and Marathon Man, leads an international cast of more-or-less unknowns including Bruno Cremer (Under the Sun), Francisco Rabal (Dagon) and Amidou (Ronin) in a project where the true star of the two-hour film is the second half where the men pair up and set off on their white-knuckle mission in a couple of creaky, jerry-rigged trucks.

Only available in inferior DVD versions over the years, Warner’s Sorcerer Blu-ray offers a stunning video and audio presentation as the men encounter numerous obstacles—crumbling roads, stormy forests, sloping bridges and dangerous indigenous peoples—on their 200 mile trek, which is all set to a throbbing synthesized score by Tangerine Dream.

As history goes, Sorcerer, which cost a reported $22 million to produce, grossed a disastrous $6 million at the domestic box office, getting blown off the screen by the newest flick in town, Star Wars. It’s worth noting that no two film released within a week of each other could be more different—and people were obviously more taken by the shiny, cosmic, youthful, computerized and fantastical world of Star Wars then they were of the grimy, jungle-bound, middle-aged, primitively rendered and mud-caked, realistic environs of Sorcerer.

Well, at least Sorcerer is finally available at  its grungy, sweaty best.

The most disappointing aspect of the release is the complete lack of bonus materials, save for the Warner’s branded DigiBook packaging, which includes 4o pages of color stills from the film, tweets and quotes from critics and the occasional celeb (filmmaker Brad Bird, for one), excerpts from Friedkin’s recent memoir The Friedkin Connection (which is promoted on the back cover), and an inserted letter to viewers from Friedkin. As the filmmaker has recorded a number of commentaries over the years, as well as appeared in numerous featurettes, one wonders why he wouldn’t have contributed more to the supplemental package. And while there was a theatrical trailer included on Universal’s 1998 DVD edition, there isn’t one here. What the hell…?

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.