#16 - Sorcerer (William Friedkin)



Hurricane Billy


I haven’t seen “The Wages of Fear” a while, but while watching “Sorcerer” last night I had a very strange feeling. The same feeling one has when a friend is re-telling a well known story, but he omits and changes certain details in a very unusual way. If there was a fault to find in William Friedkin’s film then it’s this: it’s very hard not to compare it to Heri-Georges Cluzout’s “The Wages of Fear”, the film it’s remaking.

But as remakes go “Sorcerer” is certainly one of the best I’ve seen. It doesn’t significantly improve on any elements of the original, but it does change around things enough to make it a pleasant and gripping watch.

First and most obvious change is that we actually get to see the backstories of the principal players, and eventual truck drivers, and how they got to the small South American town where the real plot kicks off. The first half of the film is dedicated to developing their characters just in like Cluzout’s film. While “Wages of Fear” was certainly a much more elegant affair, Sorcerer doesn’t mind a bit of messiness in its presentation. The scene to scene progression is often very uneven, which gives the film a grungier feeling; and the same goes for the second half of the film, the tense drive through the jungle.

Although our truckers do face a few obstacles that very much echo scenes from the original, Firedkin also adds quite a few new ones that maybe even top the tension of the original. Most notably the bridge scene which is at times is an unbelievable watch and is definitely one of the tensest film sequences I’ve seen. It feels wrong to say it like this, but the bridge sequence alone justifies the existence of this remake; even though it is clearly not the only reason to watch it, mind you. “Sorcerer” has a lot to offer.

But what “Sorcerer” fails to capture is the great character dynamics of the original, the rivalry between the two trucks and the role reversals that “Wages of Fear” portrayed so greatly. The character work is certainly a few notches below, but it is still there, only that the film rather goes for the thrills instead. And it’s the thrills that it delivers in abundance.

While cinematically “Sorcerer” stands on the shoulders of a giant, it still manages to be a really good film in its own right. Primarily because of the cast, lead by the great Roy Scheider, and the directorial hubris of William Friedkin. But hubris in a good sense, because he is one of a very few directors that does not mind to risk the whole production just to get one scene right, like the mentioned bridge scene. It cost a staggering one million dollars to set up, and he did it multiple times on two locations. All for our entertainment, and it was worth every penny. I can see Billy running through the jungle and screaming “Are you not entertained?!” at an audience that is not there and has yet to see his film.

And although “Sorcerer” was a major flop at the time of its release (to a large part thanks to being released at the same time when Star Wars went in to wide release) it has found a following on home video formats and TV. And it is very easy to see why.

As for where it fits in Willam Friedkin’s filmography, it’s easy to say that “Sorcerer” is one of his better films. It is also one of his most accessible films and it packs a constant wallop of tension and suspense that is only matched by “The Exorcist”.


Roy Scheider - Jackie Scanlon / Juan Dominguez
Bruno Cremer - Victor Manzon / Serrano
Francisco Rabal - Nilo
Amidou - Kaseem / Martinez

Sorcerer on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment