Sorcerer ★★★★★

Scuzzier, sweatier, grittier and angrier than its predecessor, Sorcerer is a shining example of how to remake a film; though to simply write off this maelstrom of jungle-insanity as just a rehashing of The Wages of Fear would not only do a disservice to the film, but it’d be incredibly misleading and reductive as well. Friedkin does not try to tread the same ground as Clouzot’s clearly inspiratory, yet vastly different picture. While ‘Wages’ focuses more on the cowardice of man, Sorcerer is a pure, unadulterated decent into madness. Divergent in tone, theme and filmic style; Friedkin’s film is more focused on fate and psychological deterioration, rather than man’s willpower in the face of almost-certain death. Not to say that isn’t a key theme here (it is), but the central thematic rub of this intense and—until recently—often overlooked masterwork is the idea that no matter how far we run or how hard we try to escape life, it could walk through that preverbal door at any moment and catch up to us with extreme prejudice and lack of care or emotion for what we may’ve been through to get to where we are. A pessimistic viewpoint, no doubt, but one that reflects most of Friedkin’s body of work and artistic philosophy.

Is it sacrilegious to rate this film higher than the original take on the story? Probably. But y’know what? Fuck it. This thing has it all. Roy Scheider is in peak-perspiring-macho-man form here and the players around him provide the same kind of pissed off and seemingly impracticable performances as he does. Seriously, these guys are insane to have taken these roles. There’s a bit of a meta aspect to Sorcerer, as the film was plagued by production difficulties and real-life danger and destruction throughout the shoot. One of the few clear-cut ways in which I believe Sorcerer takes precedence over ‘Wages’ is the visual advantage that it has. The classic B&W cinematography of Armand Thirard is no doubt stunning, but I give the edge to the pair of Dick Bush and John Stephens’ sublime work here. When you reimagine a picture that was originally shot in black and white, you’d better improve on or at least match the camerawork in that film, and I think those two do so. In fact, it ain’t even close; Sorcerer is by far one of the most spectacularly shot movies I have ever seen. I wasn’t sure for awhile—yes, the jungle looks amazing and the addition of color brings a whole different ambiance to the concepts explored—but it was the penultimate sequence in the rocky desolation with those violet hues, only miles out from our character’s destination, that cemented my love and preference for the visuals in Sorcerer.

A sheer powerhouse of a film; Friedkin’s opus (yup, that’s right) is an unrelenting, fiery, blood-curdling adrenaline rush from the very start. There’s not a single moment where the turmoil and seat-gripping tension aren’t as thick as the delirium-inducing rainforest our madmen must traverse to reach their deliverance. Everything is heightened and enhanced by one of the greatest original scores in cinema history from Tangerine Dream. I’ve heard some critique this choice—and maybe I’m biased because I am admittedly a huge fan of the group—however, for my money, it was an ingenious decision to have them do the music for the film. Pulsating rhythmic synth-drones and whirring, oscillating soundscapes perfuse and perfectly offset the visuals, adding a mystical and ethereal quality to the overall atmosphere of the film that would’ve never been achievable otherwise. Without question, Sorcerer is an instant favorite for me and I can not wait to experience it all over again.

Jerry McGlothlin liked these reviews