HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:86
William Friedkin was on top of the world with “Halloween” and “The French Connection”. He was the darling of the 70s cinema at that point and had made two fantastic films. “Sorcerer” was right on target to be his next hit, but for some reason fate had other plans. With the name “Sorcerer” you’d expect something a bit more fantastical, or “sword and sorcery” than a gritty 70’s thriller. Add to mix a certain film by the name of “Star Wars” released that same year and you can see why “Sorcerer” got overlooked and trashed at the cinemas. Years later it has gained a very solid cult following and with this following in mind we get a fully re-mastered 4K scan for blu-ray fans. The film itself is pretty obviously a remake of Criterion’s “Wages of Fear”, although Friedkin adamantly denies the claim, instead insisting that the film is completely original (even though the similarities are startling). Although it may be a remake by all standards, director and crew went through some amazing and death defying feats to get some of the best footage for this thriller. The crew and director braved incredible weather conditions, a terrorist attack, drought, financial issues and many more to shoot on location and acquire some realistic footage for the film. While it bombed in the box office, “Sorcerer” remains one of my favorite movies by William Friedkin and the cult following has allowed for its continued release on home video.
4 men, driven from their countries of origin, meet together for a fateful trip through the Puerta Rican countryside. A hit man in Veracruz assassinates someone, only to be vanish, then a bombing in Israel leaves only one survivor, a man named Kassem (Amidou) who is forced to leave the country. In Paris, a rich baker is on the edge of collapse. His firm is under investigations, his partner commits suicide and faces almost certain Jail time. In a fit of panic he runs away, leaving his wife in Paris. Simultaneously, Jack Scanlon (Roy Scheider), a thief, robs the wrong crime kingpin and has to flee before he’s hunted down. Ending up in Puerto Rica, Jack assumes the name of “Juan” and tries to scrape out a living for himself. There the 4 unrelated men cross paths for a job. It seems that an American oil rig has fallen under a terrorist attack and the oil rig itself is on fire. The only thing that can cap the fire is a stash of Nitroglycerin that is over a hundred miles away. To make matters worse the Nitro is leaking badly, so even the wrong movement can cause the stash to blow. Still, the nitro needs to make it to the oil rig and only a crazy man would take that trip. Or at least a desperate man, or to be exact, 4 desperate men. The company hires our 4 men on the run to make what seems like a suicide run, make the trip alive and they get $10,000 each, if they don’t make it, well you get the idea.
Trekking across miles of jungle the men must creep, crawl and cajole the two trucks, labeled “Lazaro” and “Sorcerer” across much, mire and rock to the oil rig. No one truck is expected to make it, so both trucks were commissioned in order to make sure that at least one truck made it to the rig. In the wild all 4 men must learn to get along with each other and trust one another to make the right decisions in the wild to keep them alive. To get through the jungle they run across fallen trees, rickety old bridges and even the terrorists themselves, battling all odds (and even their own fraying sanity) the trucks rumble along and we find out just who can take it, and who can’t.
The film itself is fairly intricate. 4 men, of seemingly no connection, must band together to battle the wild elements of nature and themselves for a fortune. The cinematography is simply dazzling, with on location sets of the jungle that really must be seen to believe. The 4 men are frazzled, worn out and at each other’s throats the whole film so the tension reigns supreme. The whole time the viewer is sitting on the edge of their seat, just wondering when that nitro is going to go off, and just who will make it out of the jungle alive. Friedkin didn’t make a hit in the theater, but the chemistry between the cast is sizzling as 4 men of different backgrounds and nationalities are thrown together in a desperate struggle for survival and that need to get out of the situation that they’re in. The film isn’t as spellbinding as “Wages of fear, but it creates its own version of the story that is still mesmerizing and visually stunning to say the least.
The film is very light on dialogue and instead relies on the physicality of the actors and the situations to get the plot across. Facial tics and expressions convey the meaning and emotion of the movie here, with less emphasis on the spoken word. Even though it was made over 37 years ago, the haunting tale of desperation and fear rings true in the 21st century and is still a bona fide classic that was drastically over looked in an era when Star Wars was dominating the box office and laser beams were sweeping us back to a galaxy far far away.
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=16186[/img]Wow, now this is how a re-master is done. Friedkin had said the negative for “Sorcerer” was in good condition, just that the colors had been faded, but I was a bit reticent being how awful the old DVD was. Riddled with compression artifacts, washed out and in the wrong aspect ratio, it didn’t exactly inspire confidence. I was, however, excited to find out that they pulled a 4k scan from the original negatives and some serious restoration work went into this project. For being a doubter I’m truly sorry, this is a PHENOMINAL transfer. The original golden 70’s color grading to the film is perfectly intact and there has been extensive work to retouch the colors to look as authentic as possible. Some have argued that they went a bit overboard with the teal coloring, but it looks VERY natural and simply breathtaking in motion. The reds and greens and blues literally pop off the screen with exquisite clarity, showing incredible detail whether it be a long shot or close up facial. The rough and gritty film texture is there since no major DNR was used, but it still shows a stunning picture that many modern films would be envious of. I truly cannot recommend this transfer enough as it’s a revelation to all the fans who have had to put up with the incredibly subpar DVD for so long.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=16210[/img]If the fantastic restoration on the video wasn’t enough, Warner’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is even better. Originally recorded in 2.0 stereo, “Sorcerer” has had the track remixed into a simply jaw dropping 5.1 track. I’m a purist and it would have been really nice to have the original stereo track, but the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is simply so immersive and full that I can certainly live with the remix. For a 1977 audio track it carries an incredible weight behind it as, every gunshot and oil explosion reverberates throughout the entire house. Waves of LFE ripple through the track and create a density that is simply electrifying. While there isn’t a load of dialogue, it is still a very impressive track. The vocals are crisp and hiss free, locked firmly in the center channel. This audio track is much more about ambient immersion and the surrounds are literally active the entire time. Even in the quieter moments you can hear everything from the creaking of a chair in the background, the rasp of rope or the vibrations of the two transport vehicles from every angle. Simply stunning, I have to say that this is one of my favorite remixes that I’ve heard in a very long time.
The only extra is the actual digibook packaging itself, which contains set stills from the films creation
In a month full of “meh” movies, it’s a refreshing experience to watch a movie that can put a big grin on my face and leave you with a sense of satisfaction. William Friedkin got a lot of flak when “Sorcerer” came out theatrically, but it’s one of my absolute favorites of his, and the cult following that has evolved certainly backs up the claim. With stellar audio and video and collector’s digibook packaging, the only flaw in the entire release is the lack of extras. While it’s a flaw that irritates the collector in me, seeing and hearing this wonderful film restored like this more than makes up for the slight disappointment and shouldn’t keep any of you from picking up this well done release. Recommended for certain
Starring: Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal
Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: Walon Green
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 122 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 22nd, 2014
Buy Sorcerer Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
More about Mike