William Friedkin’s poorly titled but riveting adaptation of Georges Arnaud’s novel Le Salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear) debuts on Blu-ray in an effectively barebones release, but a first rate high definition transfer of this once overlooked cinematic gem more than makes up for any shortcomings in the special features.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hr. 2 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 04/22/2014
Four outlaws – Jackie Scanlon (Roy Scheider), a New Jersey thug with a price on his head; Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer), a French investment banker accused of fraud; Kassem (Amidou), a Mid-East terrorist wanted for a Jerusalem bombing; and Nilo (Francisco Rabal), a professional assassin – hit rock bottom when they’re forced to flee their respective countries and wind up in the squalid South American village of Porvenir, subsisting through odd jobs or the cheap wages offered by an American oil company operating in the area. When terrorists sabotage the company’s well, setting it ablaze, it presents the four men with a rare, but potentially deadly, opportunity to leave the village. In order to staunch the oil fire, the company needs explosives, but the closest supply of nitroglycerin is over 200 miles away and can only be transported by truck. The company foreman Corlette (Ramon Bieri) offers a sizable cash payment for experienced drivers and settles on the four fugitives. Making their way through a harrowing gauntlet of challenges, from barely drivable mountain roads and bridges to gun-wielding bandits, the risks hardly seem worth it, but desperation and nothing to lose can make men do just about anything.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Viewed by director William Friedkin as another adaptation of Georges Arnaud’s novel Le Salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear), as opposed to a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 French film of the same name, Sorcerer should have done a lot better than it did when it came out in 1977. At the very least, it shouldn’t have been so readily forgotten (I’d never even heard of the film until the Blu-ray press release went out), but since it came out a mere month after Star Wars blasted its way into theaters, it’s easy to place the blame on the film credited for irrevocably changing the economics and expectations of the Hollywood film industry. Personally, I think Sorcerer’s title was more the problem, not only because it needlessly tried to capitalize on Friedkin’s Exorcist credentials, but because it makes little sense even within the context of the film – it’s the name painted on one of the trucks, but not even what’s considered the lead vehicle (try explaining that one to a potential moviegoer). Friedkin, rightly, sees the film’s box office failure as a combination of the Star Wars phenomenon, the poor choice of title, as well as his own self-involved behavior that made it hard for the studio to stand behind him when things got rough.
Fortunately, time is a great healer and the fact it was a box office flop in 1977 only makes for a more interesting, underdog kind of backstory. Regardless of its history, the film holds up as both a riveting adventure thriller and uncompromising statement about the immutability of fate, thanks, for the most part, to a rather stunning ender. Scheider and Cremer also turn in unwavering performances that more than sell the depths of their characters’ loss and want, making the film probably too dark and grim for some sensibilities. For everyone else, though, Sorcerer makes for one hypnotic piece of filmmaking.
Framed at 1.78:1 (a slight modification from its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio) and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer boasts deep blacks and an uncompromised range of contrast. Colors are deep and accurately rendered, particularly in the jungle scenes where greens exhibit an incredible level of saturation. Fine object detail holds up from close ups to wide shots and the image bears a healthy and natural grain structure. Scenes where light levels are more limited exhibit some muddiness in the shadows, but I suspect those problems are inherent to the source.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible, though thicker accents may require engaging English subtitles. Surrounds are used in moderation, providing support for the Tangerine Dream soundtrack and filling out the space during rain storms and crowd scenes. LFE is non-existent, but a few key explosions extend to reasonable and satisfying depths.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Special Features Rating: 1/5
- Letter from the Director: Friedkin shares his motivations for taking on the project after the successes of The Exorcist and The French Connection and thanks those who helped make the Blu-ray release a reality.
- Collectible Book: Incorporated into the packaging, the high quality printed material detailing major aspects of the production through words and photographs is adapted from Friedkin’s memoir The Friedkin Connection.
Warner Home Video delivers an outstanding HD presentation for Sorcerer, director William Friedkin’s unfairly disregarded film about loss, desperation and fate. The special features are limited to some printed material, but considering how long the film was forgotten, if not effectively abandoned, there should be few complaints about a feature-only release actually hitting the market.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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