A financial flop lost in the Star Wars summer of 1977, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, long plagued by legal problems regarding distribution in its complete form, has now undergone a stunning restoration overseen by the director himself. Based on the same novel as the French classic The Wages of Fear, it concerns four fugitives whose desperation has brought them to an oil-drilling work camp in South America, thanks to crimes of assassination, terrorism, bank fraud and robbery. When offered enough money to escape their situation, they take on the life-threatening job of transporting crates of temperamental nitrogylcerin by truck across a nightmarish jungle.
While its extended prologue scenes regarding each fugitive perhaps go on a bit too long, early pacing concerns are abandoned for the visceral, elemental second hour. Breathtaking in its cinematography, production design and sound work, Sorcerer is a worthy contender for the film with the most suspenseful set-pieces in Hollywood history – if such an arbitrary title existed.
Though ostensibly a remake, Friedkin’s favourite of his own films marches to its own beat and is ripe for rediscovery. [Josh Slater-Williams]