Duration: 95 minutes

Director: William Friedkin

Producer: William Friedkin

Cinematography:  John M. Stephens, Dick Bush


Perhaps more soul destroying than epic films which are never made (Jodorowsky’s Dune and Welles’ Heart of Darkness spring to mind) are the films, which are made but not seen on their release due to circumstance.

For instance, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) sat turning ripe on the shelves until he proactively took out a full page ad in Variety demanding that the studio release it. They did, in various forms and made it a limited release. There’s no less than four different cuts of Brazil that you can find out there. It makes Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner look like smooth sailing in comparison.

Sorcerer suffered an even crueler twist of fate being released on the same day as:… Star Wars.

The director, William Friedkin, a temperamental type who had a history of on-set tantrums was the mind behind early 70s hits The French Connection and The Exorcist. He was a driving force behind what’s now called New Hollywood Cinema. After a string of hits his next project, The Devil’s Triangle, was shelved while he concentrated on making the picture of his career (always a dangerous sign).

Friedkin concentrated on a retelling of 1953’s The Wages of Fear. It tells a story of four desperados who have to transport nitroglycerin across South American jungle in order to extinguish an oil well on fire.


Sorcerer was similar to ‘Apocalypse Now’ in so far as the set, budget and the problems off the set, reflected the story on the set. Budget overruns, the complexity of shooting in the Dominican Republic as well as in the middle of Jerusalem spiraled the budget. Add to this malaria, food poisoning, teamsters walking off the set and the constant threat of people being thrown in jail from the Dominican authorities. Even Steve McQueen who was initially interested, left the project when his wife Ali McGraw wasn’t incorporated into the script.

The special effects would include a bomb blast in the middle of Jerusalem (the filming was stopped while an actual bomb blast went off nearby) and the climatic rope bridge crossing by the trucks in a storm cost $1 million alone to erect and weeks to film.

As it turned out the release of film coinciding with George Lucas’s little Sci Fi jaunt was its own death march. However, the misleading title (the name given to one of the trucks) and the fact that it’s 30 minutes in to the film before English is even spoken, didn’t really help its cause much either.

Despite the back story, what you get with Sorcerer is a surprisingly griping film which is painstakingly stripped of melodrama. It’s an illustration of desperation that is all the more poignant because there’s no sides to the tale. There are no heroes or antiheroes. Just four men stuck in purgatory and trying to scrape together the money needed to escape the country they’re languishing in. Rather than exaggerating the scenes, it instead underplays it, letting the absurdity of the situation they’re in do the speaking.

One of the more spellbinding films, Sorcerer sits alongside other 70s thrillers like The Marathon Man, The French Connection and The Parallax View.


Tips to enjoy Sorcerer (1977) – Spoilers

– Possibly one of the more trippy soundtracks in motion picture history, Sorcerer’s soundtrack was created by Tangerine Dream. Check out other albums they’ve done if you’re into 70s chilling pop electronica.

Check out 1953’s Wages of Fear or read the source novel Le Salaire de la peur by Georges Arnaud.

– For more information about Sorcerer check out this article from Variety.

– as well as this article about its recent restoration (including was there a gunshot at the end or not in the original edit?)


Can’t find it? You can buy it here.


Other Links for Trivia and Info on Sorcerer (1977):

Wikipedia entry


Rotten Tomatoes


IMDB entry


IMDB Trivia page


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