Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Truck with nitro on rickety -- to say the least -- bridge
SORCERER (1977). Director: William Friedkin.

Jackie Scanlon (Roy Scheider) participates in the robbery of a parish during which a priest is shot, and the priest turns out to be the brother of a mafia bigwig. In France banker Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer) learns that he is probably going to prison and the only man who can help him commits suicide. These two men and others wind up working in South America under fairly miserable conditions, and are desperate for money to go somewhere else. An opportunity arises when the oil concern needs volunteers to drive two trucks full of nitroglycerin for many miles over dangerous terrain to deliver to the oil well, with a big pay-off for those who survive. Sorcerer is a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Wages of Fear, and is generally well-done, if not exceptional. The movie pulls you in even though its characters are hardly sympathetic, and the gritty and atmospheric details help make the trip compelling. The film's main strength lies in excellent, harrowing [if somewhat improbable] sequences in which the trucks have to somehow maneuver their way over shaky bridges on the verge of falling apart and spanning rushing waters. [Oddly, one scene in which a deadly explosion occurs is sort of thrown away.] There is some forgettable music from Tangerine Dream when Sorcerer cries out for a rousing, dramatic score, which probably would have made it a much more successful picture on every level. [Even Hitchcock knew the value of a good musical score, and Friedkin is no Hitchcock.] The actors give it their all, and the photography is top-notch, although there are times the somewhat documentary-style approach results in some disjointed editing and an occasional slapdash look. Friedkin wrote about his travails making the picture in his book The Friedkin Connection.

Verdict: Not entirely satisfying, but often quite gripping. ***.

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