Why I Love This Scene: I’ve expressed my love for director William Friedkin before about To Live and Die in LA and how much of a gritty and intense auteur he could be. And I’m sure most of you have seen The French Connection or The Exorcist before and either have loved them for the fine examples of exceptional 70’s filmmaking or maybe not loved them but I’m sure you can agree that they are very interesting flicks. 1977’s Sorcerer is of no exception but most have neither seen it nor heard of it. It’s a shock that we heard from Friedkin since 1977.
After the high successes of The French Connection and The Exorcist, Friedkin was basically an untouchable wunderkind and could do whatever he wanted. Because he saw himself in direct competition with Francis Ford Coppola, who was in pre-production in the Philippines for Apocalypse Now, Friedkin decided to make this little $2.5 million thriller in the Dominican Republic. Tensions behind the camera arose quickly as Friedkin’s ego exploded hotter than the tropical heat. Approximately 50 people got gangrene, he fired people left and right for silly reasons and on one occasion cried over an accidental killing of a pig which left the crew dumbstruck. Not surprising, the budget ballooned to $22.5 million and the studio heads hated what they were seeing as the end result. To add insult to the overall injury, this little thriller which only starred Roy Scheider, opened a month after Star Wars and was quickly forgotten about, making only a paltry $9 million worldwide.
Which is a real shame because I’ve seen the flick twice and it is spectacular. It was highly ambitious for its time with a highly international cast with multiple locations and a score by Tangerine Dream. It’s pretty much a remake of a French movie that came out in 1953, called The Wages of Fear and the plot is fairly simple; probably too simple. Four criminals on the lam are hired to transport highly unstable caches of nitroglycerin in large trucks across very rocky and rough jungle terrain to a site where there’s a huge oil spill. That’s it. Four shady characters with equally shady pasts, team up to drive trucks with highly explosive chemicals in tow. What I like about it is not just its simplicity but in how suspenseful it is.
It may have bombed in 1977 and was critically bashed, but now it’s considered a bona fide masterpiece. It now has a 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and most critics who denounced it have changed their tune about Sorcerer. The title may not have helped either since its meaning is very open to interpretation and obscure. Regardless of the lack of wizards or magic, the film is fantastic and I highly recommend it.
It’s most famous for this bridge scene. Obviously, since a still for this scene was used for the theatrical poster.