Written by / 10/03/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

ROY SCHEIDER & BRUNO CREMER DRIVE AN EXPLOSIVE 'SORCERER'

Beautiful cover art for William Friedkin's SORCERER Year: 1977
In THE EXORCIST, William Friedkin literally brought us to the gates of Hell, which, even if you don't believe in such a place, through dismal, unimaginable atmosphere, music and suspenseful direction, he creates it palpably enough to completely imagine, and experience...

Making him the right director to take us all the way to the depths of, in this case, a filthy and hopeless South American hiding place...

Where four central extremely flawed and hopeless characters from different parts of a fallen world exist, with nowhere else to go and not a dime to get there even if there was a possible way out — a kind of death sentence where the inhabitants are unlucky enough to still be around... A living for dying purgatory that's no cliche and isn't symbolic or artsy: looking like a gritty hybrid of sadistic voyeurism and third world documentary b-roll...

Bruno Cremer and a truck called SORCERER
Before this, it takes twenty minutes, showing individual reasons for each of the four men, and how they, from France to Israel to New York City, wound up where the film spends a fair amount of time before snaking along a formidable jungle terrain with two trucks transporting gallons of nitroglycerin to stop an oil fire...

An intense and hopeless suicide mission that can give each driver enough cash to possibly acquire freedom while scenes with the contained fire... being dealt with by an American played by BADLANDS actor Ramon Bieri... is an amazing visual monstrosity shown mostly by areal shots with the surrounding jungle landscape, a hybrid of fierce red and deep green colors, and a roving helicopter, that would only be equalled a few years later in Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW.

Roy Scheider smoking in Sorcerer
The most intense scenes also become the only slight drawback. When SORCERER, named after one of the two old trucks, turns from an edgy, claustrophobic, contained, pot-boiling Neo Noir into a slowburn, suspenseful mobile adventure, a bit too much time's spent on particular obstacles, making the truly effective moments occur before the main plot gets underway.

Perhaps because of the film's initial clunk in the 1977 box office, Friedkin kicked himself for not suffering the demands of the first choice in the main role, Steve McQueen, to be nabbed from his shaggy, overweight, pot smoking, beer guzzling, motorbike riding retirement post TOWERING INFERNO. The difficult icon's "Pay to Play" million-dollar's up front stipulation was backed by something Friedkin just couldn't say Yes to – Steve's wife and GETAWAY co-starlet, Ali McGraw, serving as the film's co-producer or worse yet, an acting part...

Commie propaganda looks like the Some Girls album cover
Whether this opinion of Friedkin is true or not, Roy Scheider was perfectly-suited, being no stranger to going up against immense odds and being put through the ringer, from one end of the proverbial wood-cutter to the other, fresh from a game-changing role in the blockbuster horror, JAWS, wherein, as it was being cast, he had a fan in Steven Spielberg from his role in Friedkin's Oscar Winning crime flick, THE FRECH CONNECTION, where he played both second and third banana...

Number two after Gene Hackman's lead, and overall third following charming heavy Alexandro Rey (who was actually cast accidentally over the fourth driver in this film). The way Scheider can both shine and blend into the background works for SORCERER since it's far from being a star-driven mainstream vehicle...

Bruno Cremer with French subtitles in Sorcerer
Based on the film novel THE WAGES OF FEAR and its 1953 adaptation, this is an ensemble concerning the four drivers... one who's actually a stubborn, nefarious passenger, getting a free ride...

It's not the American lead that's the most sympathetic or, during the four initial prologues, the most fleshed-out compared to French actor Bruno Cremer as Victor Manzon, his name changed to Serrano...

During the entire film, moved forward by imagery over dialogue, his expressions help guide the picture beyond Scheider's Jackie Scanlon aka Juan Dominguez once he's moved to South America: he's a hardened yet ambiguous, quiet and brooding former  member of "The Doheny Gang" in New York, wherein he and three thugs had balls and gall (and stupidity) enough to rob a Catholic Church's lucrative bingo game (during a wedding with actor Frank Pesche as an abusive husband, standing next to a bruised-up, blushing bride) and then shooting a priest, whose brother happens to be a mobster that wants revenge on the shattered heist's sole survivor...

Thine Signed-Inside Blu Ray booklet
Also filling a truck seats is the most sturdy, ready-go player in Amidou as Kassem/Martinez, an Arab terrorist who bombed Jerusalem and, with his own intense, faithful, hard-working countenance highlighted by large droopy eyes, he too is an otherwise despicable person that becomes a sort of grungy anti-hero to root for, or at least, feel for – perhaps it's not just irony the Frenchman and Arab are in the truck bearing the film's title as both leave the most lasting impression throughout, baring the most humanity. Still though, Scheider is the leader, and the toughest, most determined overall.

Propaganda Style Poster
The second act horrifically takes place in the purgatory work camp with one dilapidated, ramshackle bar surrounded by shabby living quarters in the midst of a muddy, murky one-pig town (that's beyond "scum and villainy") under a scolding sun that leaves no one, not even the payed-off lawman, unscathed...

Cooling off in hopeless perdition
As Friedkin takes us both on a journey and deep inside a terrorizing, seemingly doomed, damned odyssey, providing a sort of ominous, New Wave vibe driven by a Tangerine Dream synthesized score in a meticulous groove wherein the few moments of genuine camaraderie really, actually mean something...

Sorcerer SCORE: ****1/2
Even the cutthroat villain, who, after igniting the entire movie's first scene, liken to the main villain's henchman in FRENCH CONNECTION, and later, taking out who was supposed to be the fourth driver — in a vehicle where the location is its very own antagonist, becomes an equal victim of dire circumstance like the others: with reverberating alughter After all, when in Hell, do as the damned, since everyone there is...

Meanwhile, William Friedkin, in his first theatrical failure that's gained a large cult following (one of Quentin Tarantino's many "favorites"), captures an entire sense of darkness with shards of light exposing an otherwise beautiful geographical location with suspense and pure, realistic horror exceeding even those two classics that he's best known, and that his legacy still hinges to: While Orson Welles was only really praised for CITIZEN KANE, you can say — SORCERER is Friedkins's TOUCH OF EVIL or a modern comparison, JACKIE BROWN.
Roy Scheider and Bruno Cremer in SORCERER
Roy Scheider as Jackie Scanlon in SORCERER
Bruno Cremer Sorcerer Bruno Cremer William Friedkin's Sorcerer
Francisco Rabal, Bruno Cremer and Roy Scheider in SORCERER
Bruno Cremer and Roy Scheider carry the goods in SORCERER
The Original French Movie title as a tagline for SORCERER, which is MUCH Better
BRUNO CREMER staring at empty freedom (a butterfly) in SORCERER
Shot of a butterfly in William Friedkin's SORCERER
Ramon Bieri in SORCERER

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