Sorcerer (1977) – William Friedkin

Iconic director William Friedkin took on an adaptation of The Wages of Fear, creating his own nerve-biting version of the French film, and novel. The film stars Roy Scheider as one of four unlucky men from around the globe who have found themselves, for one reason or another, stuck in a Latin American country that they cannot get out of.

Scanlon (Scheider) is on the run from a heist he pulled in New Jersey. He escaped with his life, but in this jungle, his life is worth nothing. He’s joined by a French banker, Manzon (Bruno Cremer), a bomber, Kassem (Amidou) and a hitman, Nilo (Francisco Rabal).

They are all stuck. There’s no way out of the country. Not without a slew of money that it seems impossible to make. But when an oil refinery explodes, and the fire can’t be put out, a drastic plan is put into action. Use dynamite to trigger an explosion to plug the hole, and douse the fire, allowing the refinery to resume operations.

Offering a huge payoff, the company hires the four men as drivers. Now they have to transport their sensitive load of nitro-glycerin sweating dynamite across the country. If they survive, they can collect their reward and be on their way, but the roads are uneven and unprotected, the bridges precarious, and the weather unpredictable.

Once the journey starts, it’s one nail-biting sequence after another, as these men take their lives in their hands, all for the possibility of surviving and escaping the country. From rickety bridges to fallen down trees serving as roadblocks, the problems keep coming, and Scanlon and the rest soon realize that none of them may get through this alive.

Brilliantly shot, and tightly edited, Sorcerer is just as tense as its predecessor. White-knuckle tension permeates everything in the film, as one trouble after another seems to beset the group, who have divided up the dynamite into two trucks, Sorcerer and Lazaro.

Nothing in the film, which was scored by Tangerine Dream, lets up until the screen goes to black to roll the end credits, it’s a helluva ride.

Being a huge Scheider fan, I loved seeing him in this one and loved seeing him go toe to toe with the elements and the other three men. The bridge crossing sequences will stand out in everyone’s memories, but there are countless gasp moments through the journey that comprises the second half of the film, all of them smart, all of them earned.

Friedkin and the film play everything gritty and everything straight, and it delivers one gut punch after another as it works to an inescapable conclusion. This is one of the rare situations where I love the North American remake as much as I love the original, but the sound, pacing, and style of this one really make Friedkin’s film shine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s