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SORCERER (Director's Cut)

Paris banker Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer) is on the run for fraud; small-time hood Jackie Scanlon (Roy Scheider) is in hiding when a heist goes wrong; Kassem (Amidou) disappears after a Jerusalem bank building explodes; hit-man Nilo (Francisco Rabal) vanishes from the scene of a murder. Victor, Jackie, Kassem and Nilo are in exile, working as labourers in the small village of Porvenir, in the South American jungles. When an oilrig at the Poza Rica erupts in flames, thanks to revolutionary guerrillas, the oil company’s representative Corlette (Ramon Bieri) needs to transport sufficient explosives to bring the fire under control. But the only nitroglycerine available is old and so volatile that it will detonate at the smallest jolt. He recruits four expert drivers willing to risk their lives – promising $10,000 for each and legal residence in the country without police harassment. But the hazardous journey cuts through 200 miles of impenetrable jungle, creeky swing bridges and crumbling mountain tracks. 

Review by Louise Keller:
Sorcerer is simply riveting cinema, one of the most enthralling, suspenseful and heart-stopping films I have ever seen. A remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic 1953 film The Wages of Fear starring Yves Montand (based on Georges Arnaud’s novel), Sorcerer was originally released in 1977. This new release does not offer a remastered print, but impresses and delights with about 20 extra minutes of footage that was excluded from the original. I did not see Sorcerer when it was originally released, but am told the additional footage comprises the set up scenes at the beginning of the film, allowing us to understand the men and the events that brought them together under such desperate circumstances. We are taken to the shifty Middle Eastern markets and the backrooms of corruption in America where not even a church is sacrosanct as a target for robbery. And we venture to the chic of Paris, where we meet Victor – at work and at home. The very last scene in Paris takes place in an elegant restaurant stylishly adorned by freshly cut flowers, monogrammed wine glasses, crisp white linen and plates decked with garlic escargots and roast beef cooked to perfection. It seems obscene and unbelievable to walk from this epitome of civilisation into an utter hell-hole in the bowels of the South American jungles, as far removed from civility as is imaginable. It’s a marvellous set up, and by the time the stage is set for the four men to begin their journey of terror transporting the volatile explosives, we are on the edge of our seats. Our hearts are in our mouth when the nitroglycerine is carried into the trucks, as the men begin their journey through the devastatingly rough terrain of jungle and makeshift roadways. Through the mud and teaming rain, deep in the mangroves, tension reaches screaming point as we watch the huge wheels of the truck spinning out of control, the bodies of the vehicles sliding involuntarily over the make-shift roads. The precipices are uncomfortably close and the sequence when the truck makes its painstaking way over a decrepit suspension bridge perched precariously over a torrent of a river is absolutely terrifying. The beat-up trucks almost become a character. Even as one obstacle is overcome, another one comes along – almost defiantly. Marvellous performances from all the cast, especially Scheider and Cremer, while Tangerine Dream’s music catapults our emotions into a frenzy. Sorcerer delivers on every count, with its explosive build up of tension, as we anticipate the men’s fate in this hazardous journey where stakes are as high as they get. Don’t be misled by the title, this is not a mystical story of enchantment – but a powerful, gripping drama whose resonances are felt long after the credits have rolled.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:

The premise on which the story is built is classic storytelling material, and The Wages of Fear (1956) was a terrific, gripping thriller. But in French. This is the English language adaptation – and definitely not a remake. When it was first released here, almost 30 minutes was cut from the beginning to allow cinemas time to play it more frequently. Not from an artistic imperative, of course, but to take more money. Now it’s re-released intact. An outstanding example of the genre, Sorcerer (a title not obviously relevant to the film’s subject matter) is compelling viewing from start to finish, with strong performances and great camerawork. The look of the film is so effective you are never in doubt that the locations are real. And largely undressed by the art department; nature is allowed to do it all. A combination of characters on the run with whom we only sympathise because of the poo they’re in, and the coarse texture of the plot takes us into an adventure with deadly risks every second. Literally. Superbly tinted with Tangerine Dream’s music, Sorcerer shows why William Friedkin is the revered director he is. He keeps our focus on the situation in equal balance with the characters, drives the action with an unerring sense for what heightens the tension through the entire running time. Unpredictable and exotic, powered by every trick in the cinematic book, Sorcerer is a scorcher.

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WILLIAM FRIEDKIN interview by Andrew L. Urban


(US - 1977 re-issue)

PRODUCER: William Friedkin

DIRECTOR: William Friedkin

SCRIPT: Walon Green (Based on novel The Wages of Fear by Georges Arnaud)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John M. Stephens, Dick Bush, BS.C.

EDITOR: Bud Smith

MUSIC: Tangerine Dream


RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: December 1 – 11, 2002; Sydney: December 5 – 18, 2002

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