ⓘ Sorcerer (film)
Sorcerer is a 1977 American adventure thriller film directed and produced by William Friedkin and starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, and Amidou. The second adaptation of Georges Arnauds 1950 French novel Le Salaire de la peur, it has been widely considered a remake of the 1953 film The Wages of Fear. Friedkin, however, has disagreed with this assessment. The plot depicts four outcasts from varied backgrounds meeting in a South American village, where they are assigned to transport cargoes of aged, poorly kept dynamite that is so unstable that it is sweating its dangerous basic ingredient, nitroglycerin.
Sorcerer was originally conceived as a side-project to Friedkins next major film, The Devils Triangle, with a modest US$2.5 million budget. The director later opted for a bigger production, which he thought would become his legacy. The cost of Sorcerer was earmarked at $15 million, escalating to $22 million following a troubled production with various filming locations - primarily in the Dominican Republic - and conflicts between Friedkin and his crew. The mounting expenses required the involvement of two major film studios, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, with both studios sharing the U.S. distribution and Cinema International Corporation being responsible for the international release.
The film gained mixed to negative critical reception upon its release. Its domestic including rentals and worldwide gross of $5.9 million and $9 million respectively did not recoup its costs. A considerable number of critics, as well as the director himself, attributed the films commercial failure to its release at roughly the same time as Star Wars, which instantly became a pop-culture phenomenon.
The film has enjoyed a critical re-evaluation, and some critics have lauded it as an overlooked masterpiece, perhaps "the last undeclared of the American 70s". Director Friedkin considers Sorcerer among one of his favorite works, and the most personal and difficult film he has made. Tangerine Dreams electronic music score was also acclaimed, leading the band to become popular soundtrack composers in the 1980s. After a lengthy lawsuit filed against Universal Studios and Paramount, Friedkin started supervising a digital restoration of Sorcerer, with the new print premiering at the 70th Venice International Film Festival on August 29, 2013. Its remastered home video release on Blu-ray came out on April 22, 2014.
The film opens with a prologue that consists of four segments described by critics as "vignettes". They show the principal characters in different parts of the world and provide their backstories.
1.1. Plot Vignette #1: Veracruz, Mexico
Nilo Rabal, an elegantly dressed man, enters a flat in Veracruz. Nilo immediately executes the unsuspecting tenant with a silenced revolver and proceeds to casually walk out of the building and onto the square.
1.2. Plot Vignette #2: Jerusalem, Israel
A group of Palestinian militants disguised as Jews causes an explosion near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, after which they take shelter at their hideout, where they assemble weaponry and plan their escape. After getting surrounded by the military, they split up; one is killed and one is apprehended. The only one who manages to escape is Kassem Amidou. The segment finishes as he helplessly stares from a crowd at his captured companion.
1.3. Plot Vignette #3: Paris, France
While discussing a book his wife is editing, Victor Manzon Cremer discovers an anniversary gift from her: a watch with a special dedication. After meeting with the president of the Paris Stock Exchange, where he is accused of fraud, Victor is given 24 hours to provide collateral so the charges can be dropped. Victor meets his business partner and brother-in-law, Pascal, and they quarrel; Victor insists that Pascal contact his father for financial assistance. Victor dines with his wife and her friend in a glamorous restaurant; he later receives a message from a butler that Pascal is waiting outside. When he learns that Pascals father has refused to help, Victor is adamant that they try again. He walks his partner to a car, but Pascal commits suicide. Faced with impending doom, Victor leaves both his country and wife.
1.4. Plot Vignette #4: Elizabeth, New Jersey, US
An Irish gang robs a church with rival connections in Elizabeth that organizes bingo games, and they shoot one of the priests. Back in their car, the gang members engage in a heated argument that causes Jackie Scanlon Scheider, the driver, to lose concentration and collide with a truck. Everyone is killed but Jackie, who escapes with serious injuries. The wounded priest turns out to be the brother of Carlo Ricci, a Mafia director who also controlled the flow of money in the church and is determined to kill Jackie at all costs. Jackie meets with his friend Vinnie, who reveals his fate and finds a suitable place for him to escape. The only option Jackie has is to agree.
1.5. Plot Part II: Life in Porvenir
Kassem, Victor, and Jackie all assume fake identities and end up in Porvenir, a remote village in Latin America. Its conditions provide a stark contrast to their previous lives. The village economy is heavily reliant on an American oil company. Kassem befriends a man called Marquez John, presumably a Nazi war veteran. They all live in extreme poverty and earn meager salaries. All want out, but their savings are inadequate for emigration. After some time, Nilo arrives in the village, raising suspicions. In the meantime, an oil well explodes, and the only way to extinguish the fire is to use dynamite. Since the only available dynamite has been improperly stored in a remote depot, the nitroglycerin contained inside has become highly unstable; the faintest vibration could cause an explosion. With all other means ruled out, the only way to transport it the 200 miles 320 km is to use trucks. The company seeks four drivers to man two vehicles. Kassem, Victor, Jackie and Marquez are offered the job, but they have to assemble the trucks using scrap parts. Shortly before their departure, Nilo kills and replaces Marquez, which angers Kassem.
1.6. Plot Part III: Journey
The four drivers embark upon a perilous journey of over 200 miles, facing many hazards and internal conflicts. Despite their differences, they are forced to co-operate. They traverse a rotten bridge during a violent thunderstorm, Nilo and Jackie nearly losing their truck in the process. The team is forced to use one of the boxes of dynamite to destroy a massive felled tree blocking their path. The rough terrain on a cliff-side road causes a tire to blow out which jostles the nitroglycerin in Kassem and Victor’s truck, causing an explosion and killing the pair. When Nilo and Jackie stop at the scene of the destruction, bandits surround them in an attempted robbery. They kill the bandits but Nilo is mortally wounded, soon dying from his injuries. Now alone, Jackie struggles to stay sane, overwhelmed by hallucinations and flashbacks. When his trucks engine dies just two miles short of the destination, he is forced to carry the remaining nitroglycerin on foot.
1.7. Plot Epilogue
At the bar back in Porvenir, Jackie is given legal citizenship and payment for the job by the oil company, as well as an offer of another job. Before he leaves, he asks a scrub woman for a dance. As the two dance, Carlo Riccis henchmen, along with his old friend Vinnie, emerge from a taxi outside. They walk into the bar, one shot is fired barely audible over the movies ending, musical score and the screen cuts to the end credits.
- Karl John as "Marquez", an old German and former Nazi who is Kassems friend, wanting to help him to move abroad from Porvenir. He is initially chosen as one of the four drivers. "Marquez" was Karl Johns final role, as he died on December 22, 1977.
- Roy Scheider as Jackie Scanlon – "Juan Dominguez", a driver who is marked for execution after his gang robbed a church and wounding a priest, the brother of Carlo Ricci, a powerful crime boss who seeks vengeance. Some time after his escape to Porvenir, local authorities proved he was using a forged ID; as compensation they are taking one third of his daily wages. Moreover, they have proven that he does not speak Spanish. His appearance as an "everyman" is modeled after Humphrey Bogarts Fred C. Dobbs character in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, with a "battered hat, unshaven face and tough guy stance". Screenwriter Walon Green described him as "believable, gutsy, and most important, desperately human". His characteristics are "most likely to reflect the self-image of the spectator".
- Amidou as Kassem – "Martinez", a politically motivated Arab bomber-terrorist with "improvised engineering skills". His attitude is permeated by "angry determination" and he shows a strong dislike for Nilo.
- Ramon Bieri as Corlette, an oil company representative who seeks four experienced drivers to transport nitroglycerin to extinguish a fire on a remote oil well. He believes the explosion was caused by local terrorists.
- Francisco Rabal as Nilo: This role was a Hollywood debut for Rabal. Nilo is an enigmatic Mexican professional assassin, skilled in using firearms, who speaks English and Spanish. His visit in Porvenir was meant to be a temporary one, as he was in transit; however, for reasons unknown he decided to stay there. He is the last-minute replacement for "Marquez" as one of the truck drivers. He is hated by Kassem and initially disliked by Scanlon. Despite having an occasion to star in a Hollywood movie, which was the actors dream, Rabal was slightly disappointed with the movies international scope and said, "hen I finally did, it was filmed in Paris, Israel, Mexico and the Dominican Republic!"
- Bruno Cremer as Victor Manzon – "Serrano": Manzon was Cremers first English-speaking role, an investment banker from Paris whose firm, Preville & Fils, is accused of false representation of collateral amounting to fifteen million francs. He speaks French, English, and German. Throughout the film, he "assumes a take-charge attitude" and stands for a "voice of discipline and reason" as well negotiates the salary with Corlette on behalf of Scanlon, Nilo and Kassem, demanding double what was originally offered, in concert with legal residence.
Other cast members include Peter Capell as Lartigue, Corlettes superior; Anne-Marie Deschodt as Blanche, Victor Manzons wife, who gives him a specially engraved watch as a wedding anniversary gift, which later on Victor tries in vain to sell in exchange for a way out of Porvenir; Friedrich von Ledebur as "Carlos", an owner of the "El Corsario" bar and a former Third Reich marshal; Chico Martinez as Bobby Del Rios, an explosives specialist and Corlettes advisor who assesses the situation at the oil well; Joe Spinell as Spider, an acquaintance of Scanlon in Porvenir who takes part in the truck-driving test but fails; Rosario Almontes as Agrippa, a bar maid in El Corsario who seems to be fond of Manzon as she gives him a crucifix before his departure; Richard Holley as Billy White, a helicopter pilot who rules out nitroglycerin in a shipment on an aircraft; Jean-Luc Bideau as Pascal, Manzons brother-in-law who fails to receive help from his father to save their company from execution of fraud; Jacques François as Lefevre, the president of the Paris Stock Exchange, who accuses Manzon of money fraud; Gerard Murphy as Donnelly, a head of the Irish gang of which Jackie Scanlon is a member; Randy Jurgensen as Vinnie, a friend of Scanlon who directs him to the Baltimore docks from where he has to flee to a yet undisclosed location in order to evade execution from mafia; and Cosmo Allegretti as Carlo Ricci, a vengeful mafia leader and a brother of a priest who was shot in New Jersey during the robbery who puts a bounty on the head of Jackie Scanlon.
3. Title and themes
The films title refers to one of the trucks, which has the name "Sorcerer" painted across the hood the other is named "Lazaro"; there is no supernatural or magical character or event. As director William Friedkin went location scouting in Ecuador and researched the peculiar ornaments on cargo trucks he had seen there, he noticed there were names painted on them, which ranged from relatives to mythological references. First the director came up with the name Lazaro after Lazarus. Then after some time struggling to think on another moniker, a listen to the Miles Davis album Sorcerer served as an inspiration to name the other truck, though the word was painted in French: "Sorcier". Friedkin then decided to change his working title Ballbreaker for Sorcerer, which he described as "an intentional but ill-advised reference to The Exorcist ".
According to Friedkin, the title fit the films general theme:
The Sorcerer is an evil wizard and in this case the evil wizard is fate. The fact that somebody can walk out of their front door and a hurricane can take them away, an earthquake or something falling through the roof. And the idea that we don’t really have control over our own fates, neither our births nor our deaths, it’s something that has haunted me since I was intelligent enough to contemplate something like it.
Friedkin elaborated on this theme in an interview with Thomas D. Clagett:
I wasnt prepared for my success or failure. I felt. buffeted by fate without any control over full of strangers who hated one another, but if they didnt cooperate, if they didnt work together in some way, they would blow up." Walon Green, the screenwriter, said that he and Friedkin "wanted a cynical movie where fate turns the corner for the people before they turn it themselves". Additionally, their intention was to "write a real movie about what we thought was the reality of Latin America and the presence of foreigners there today".
During a scene in Paris involving a conversation between Victor and his wife, she reads him a memoir of a retired French Foreign Legion officer who has to make a decision whether to kill a civilian or not. The officer eventually does so, which to Victor means that he was "just another soldier". His wife, however, counters with an argument that "no one is just anything". According to Friedkin, this phrase stands for "the theme of the film". Film critic Gloria Heifetz has added that Friedkins direction prevents this line from becoming sentimental, and ties in with the films finale.
4.1. Production Pre-development
Friedkin originally conceived Sorcerer as a "little 2.5 million in-between movie", a stepping stone to realize his next major project, The Devils Triangle, the planned follow-up to The Exorcist. However, Steven Spielberg at that point had already made Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which presumably nullified the project. Peter Biskind theorized that Friedkin had always seen Francis Ford Coppola as his competitor, so when Coppola headed to the Philippines to direct Apocalypse Now, Friedkin went to Latin America to shoot Sorcerer.
Friedkins intention was not to create a remake, but to direct a film using only the same basic outline with completely original protagonists. He also wanted the film to be "grittier than Clouzots finds out that the well is blown by terrorists and they cant do anything about it. When Bluhdorn saw his picture on the wall as chairman of the oil company he had a shit hemorrhage!
4.2. Production Locations
To create four prologues for the characters respective backstories, Friedkin shot each of the vignettes on location, respectively in Paris for Victor Manzon, Jerusalem for Kassem, Elizabeth, New Jersey, for Jackie Scanlon, and Veracruz, Mexico, for Nilo. The main part of the film was, on the other hand, originally meant to be shot in Ecuador, which impressed Friedkin tremendously. However, such a diversity of locations caused serious concerns about the budget. After strong opposition from Lew Wasserman, who was the owner of Universal Studios at the time, Friedkin had to opt out from shooting there. The director eventually settled on the Dominican Republic, after receiving a green light from the studios executives. In a memoir, Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob And Sex, film producer Peter Bart theorized that the owner of Gulf and Western, Charlie Bluhdorn, supported the Dominican Republic financially and intended to create a film-making centre there. Paul Rowlands, a critic, stated that "its likely the decision to film in the Dominican Republic was one favoured by Bluhdorn."
After scouting locations with Walon Green and John Box, the production designer, they chose La Altagracia village as the main location. Friedkin described the place as "a prison without walls" with a "sense of timeless poverty and persecution".
Although the majority of the film was filmed in the Dominican Republic, Friedkin did not hesitate to look for other locales to achieve the desired effect. One of the most notable ones is depicted in the films climax. It features a surrealistic landscape, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, New Mexico:
The one sequence left to shoot was the last leg of the journey of the surviving truck, the Lazaro, and I wanted it to be different from the other locations… and John Box found it in a place called the Bisti Badlands in northwestern New Mexico, 35 miles south of the town called Farmington… It was the landscape we chose for the end of the journey, in which Scanlon embraces madness, abandons his truck, and carries the dynamite two miles to the burning oilfield.
4.3. Production On-set conflicts and problems
During a sequence involving the detonation of an enormous kaoba tree, Friedkin was faced with a problem of inadequate explosive power. Initially, Marcel Vercoutere, a special effects man who previously worked with the director on The Exorcist, was to be responsible for the explosion. However, it did not achieve the required effect and barely damaged the tree. This prompted Friedkin to reach for the services of an arsonist hailing from Queens, New York, going by the pseudonym "Marvin the Torch", who arrived at the Dominican Republic three days after the call and utilizing flammable materials obliterated the tree in one take the following morning. A week into the shooting in the Dominican Republic, Friedkin and his crew went to Los Angeles to process the film and view dailies. The director described the prologues as "beautifully shot", but he was dissatisfied with the jungle scenes which he deemed "underexposed" and "dark". He told Dick Bush a reshoot would be necessary. Bush, on the other hand, argued that filming should have taken place on a stage where he could have adequately adjusted the lighting. The response reminded Friedkin of his previous problems on the set of The Boys in the Band and offended him, as from the very beginning he had wanted to shoot the entire film on location. Upon seeing the underexposed scenes, Bush reportedly "lost confidence" and was subsequently dismissed, which forced Friedkin to employ a new camera crew. He replaced Bush with John M. Stephens with whom he had worked under David L. Wolper. Stephens applied necessary changes, including the employment of reflectors balancing "the deep shadows of the tall trees", as well as replacing lenses and film stock. This resulted in a leap of cinematographic quality which delighted the director, who has said "the locations looked beautiful to the eye".
Apart from Bush, Friedkin had a feud with the chief Teamsters representative whom he dismissed at some point and which prompted the director to find another trucker crew. The director also fired five production managers, which upset Scheider, who said that he was "tired of going to the airport and saying goodbye to them," as well as adding that he was the only person Friedkin could not drop, as he was the leading actor. David Salven, initially chosen as a line producer, had to quit for personal reasons, as he was facing the possibility of a divorce. Friedkin regretted this situation, as he praised Salven greatly for his previous contributions to his movies. He was replaced by Ian Smith, whom the director described as "experienced and efficient". In Tuxtepec, Mexico, where the suspension bridge scene was filmed, an undercover federal agent informed Friedkin that several of his crew members, including grip crew men, stuntmen and a makeup artist, were in the possession of drugs and were urged to leave the country or face prison sentences. It reportedly took two weeks to replace the crew workers. Besides internal on-set conflicts, Friedkin, cited by Mucci, said that approximately fifty people "had to leave the film for either injury or gangrene," as well as food poisoning and malaria. In The Friedkin Connection he added that "almost half the crew went into the hospital or had to be sent home." Friedkin himself lost fifty pounds 23 kg and was stricken with malaria, which was diagnosed after the films premiere. Tim Applegate concluded an account of the troubled film-making of Sorcerer by comparing Friedkin to Francis Ford Coppola during the production of Apocalypse Now: "Friedkin took his camera crew to the jungle and never quite returned."
4.4. Production Sound
The sound design crew included Jean-Louis Ducarme, with whom Friedkin had worked on The Exorcist and of whom he thought very highly. He was joined by Robert Knudson, who also was a sound effects supervisor for Friedkins previous movie as well as Robert Glass and Richard Tyler. The sound crew employed distorted samples of tiger and cougar roars for the truck engines sound. C.J. Schexnayder noted that such a technical exercise was "relatively unique for the period"; but, over the years, techniques such as these became a staple of film-making. The sound design eventually garnered the movies sole Academy Award nomination, which it lost to Star Wars.
Sorcerer marked the first Hollywood film score for the German krautrock and electronic band Tangerine Dream. William Friedkin, during his visit in Germany, attended their concert in a derelict church in the Black Forest. The band seemed to him "on the cutting edge of the electronic synthesizer sound" that soon would become a staple in mainstream culture. He assessed their music as a mixture of classical music played on synthesizers and "the new pop sound", and described the experience as "mesmerizing". In an interview for Evolution Garden Music Award, Edgar Froese, then-band leader, recalled how he initially rejected the commission, thinking that Friedkin would score The Exorcist II, about which Froese was not enthusiastic. However, upon learning Friedkin intended to reimagine Wages of Fear, Froese called Friedkin back and asked for video material to be worked on, but Friedkin suggested the band create the score based solely on their impressions of the script, without seeing a single minute of video footage. After initially meeting in Paris, Froese reports Friedkin was delighted with their work; Froese added that they "never had to change anything on that score" and summarized their involvement as "the most uncomplicated work we did for Hollywood". Upon receiving the commissioned audio material, Friedkin was inspired to edit the film according to the music, which he received in a raw, unabridged form.
Friedkin, an admirer of the band, stated in the liner notes for the soundtrack that ", and that he considers the film and the score to be "inseparable". Apart from Tangerine Dreams score, some excerpts from Keith Jarretts Hymns/Spheres were employed. Friedkin also featured one licensed song, "Ill Remember April", by jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, and a cover version of "So What" by Miles Davis. For the films screening, Paramount and William Friedkin prepared specific instructions regarding music: they demanded a three-and-half-minute musical overture to be played prior to each screening, and prohibited any alterations to it.
6.1. Release Box office
Sorcerer opened theatrically in the United States on June 24, 1977, and ended up being a box office flop, grossing $5.9 million domestically and $9 million worldwide. Roger Ebert estimated that at the time, the film would have needed a gross of around $45–50m to just "break even". It was released a month after George Lucas runaway box-office smash of 1977, Star Wars ; Mann Theatres wanted to keep Star Wars at Manns Chinese Theater, but Paramount insisted on the company fulfilling its contract for Sorcerer. Warned by Sorcerer film editor Bud Smith, Friedkin and his wife Jeanne Moreau watched the science-fiction epic at Manns Chinese Theater and nervously saw the gigantic crowds that attended, knowing that his film would soon replace it. Friedkins fears were correct; when Sorcerer debuted at the theater, it was so unsuccessful by comparison that Star Wars quickly returned. Friedkin agreed with this assessment during an interview on the Bug DVD.
Several critics theorized that another probable factor in the films box office failure was the confusion related to its title. Cyriaque Lamar of Cracked.com notes that suspense through beautiful simplicity".
A prominent English film critic, Mark Kermode, also expressed his appreciation for the movie, saying that he had "got a fondness for William Friedkins version of Wages Of Fear Sorcerer," however adding that "only an idiot would argue that Sorcerer is a better movie than Wages Of Fear."
6.2. Release Top film lists
- unranked - Benjamin Safdie, 2012 Sight & Sound personal top 10 films poll
- unranked - Quentin Tarantino, 2012 Sight & Sound personal top 12 films poll
- 9th - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, top 10 films from 1977
- 1st - Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly, "20 Movie Rentals That Never Let Me Down"
6.3. Release International cuts
The films European as well as Australian cinema release cut 28 minutes from the original but not in France, where the movie was distributed in its full-length version. In most regions of the world it was also retitled as Wages of Fear and distributed by Cinema International Corporation later renamed as United International Pictures, a joint venture between Universal and Paramount specifically established for overseas distribution. This version opens in the village with the drivers already present, and ends with the delivery of explosives. The cuts were made by the international distributor Cinema International Corporation, without Friedkins consent in order to obtain more screenings. Friedkin referred to this cut as a "mutilated" version of his work. The opening vignettes are somewhat retained, albeit heavily shortened and inserted as flashbacks. Although the European cut is shorter, there are almost sixteen minutes of unique footage not shown in the original American theatrical version.
The aforementioned changes were approved by Verna Fields and commissioned to Jim Clark, who reluctantly agreed, and Cynthia Scheider. Fields was a Universal Studios executive who thought shortening and restructuring the movie would increase the films commercial potential. Scheider was also interested in applying those changes, offering his cooperation. Jim Clark was reportedly assured by Fields that Friedkin permitted changes, but was very suspicious about the authenticity of this claim. Therefore, Clark wrote an indemnity preventing Friedkin from any form of interference. Some additional dialogue written by Clark and Ken Levinson was later dubbed in. The studio did not possess the original work print; hence it was forced to work on the combined print. Jim Clark said the cut was "at best, passable" and was of the opinion that if he "had left Friedkins version alone, it would have had exactly the same fate."
6.4. Release Home media
The films release on video was held up for many years; executives at Paramount and Universal argued it was ownership issues that was preventing a release, though a Universal spokesperson suggested that a lack of public interest might be another reason. A VHS version of Sorcerer was released on October 4, 1990. A laserdisc release followed on December 15, 1990. The DVD was released in the U.S. and Canada on November 17, 1998, and used the laserdisc transfer presented in a 1.33:1 non-widescreen version, which is not its original theatrical aspect ratio; it was shown in cinemas at a ratio of 1.85:1. Like Stanley Kubrick, Friedkin consistently claimed during the 1980s and 1990s that he preferred the home video releases of his films to be presented in the fullframe format. However, since widescreen televisions have become popular, Friedkin has allowed many of his other films to be released on DVD in their original widescreen formats.
6.5. Release 2014 home video re-release
In September 2013, Friedkin announced that new, remastered home video releases on Blu-ray and DVD were supposed to be released on April 14, 2014, however, both ended up being pushed to April 22. While the 2014 Blu-ray release contains a new, digitally remastered version of the movie, its DVD counterpart is simply a reissued version of the previous DVD release, and has not been authorized by Friedkin, who himself disowned it, and advised to avoid purchasing it. Furthermore, the director announced that he would supervise the remastering process for its proper DVD re-release, which hit stores on August. The Blu-Ray had no extra features, but was accompanied by a booklet with production stills and an excerpt of Friedkins memoir The Friedkin Connection, and was well-received upon release, with good reviews praising the quality of the transfer and reaching #1 in Drama and # 2 in Action/Adventure on Amazon.com.
Sorcerer s box office flop status had since led to comparisons with other financial failures of the time, particularly Michael Ciminos Heavens Gate, as well as Francis Ford Coppolas One from the Heart and Martin Scorseses New York, New York. Critics argued that the fiasco of these films, among others, contributed to ending a period of auteur approach to the American cinema that was prominent in the 1970s.
In the opinion of several critics, the release of Star Wars marked a distinctive demographic shift among the audiences as well as altered trends in movie industry drastically which at the same time attributed to Sorcerer s financial and critical fiasco. Sean Macaulay notes that Star Wars changed the movie-going demography, considerably "reset American cinema back to comforting fantasy" According to reviewer Pauline Kael, Star Wars contributed to "infantilizing the audience" as well as "obliterating irony, self-consciousness, and critical reflection" and to Tom Shone, who drew from Kael, was impossible to compete with by Friedkin and Sorcerer. Biskind also thought American movie-going demographic changed considerably since The French Connection and Sorcerer was "too episodic, dark, and star challenged" to achieve mainstream appreciation. RH Greene argues that Star Wars, which in his opinion was "pure escapism", made intellectually demanding films like Sorcerer obsolete.
Bill Gibron marks the demise of unrestrained writer-director creative control in favor of studio-governed film-making with Heavens Gate, and adds that Sorcerer also significantly contributed to this trend. Sheldon Hall theorizes that success of films like Jaws and Star Wars set the trends in Hollywood cinema for the decades to come. This was, in contrast to the "subversive attitude" which then journalists heralded as the pinnacle of filmmaking. Hall observes that films such as M*A*S*H, Deliverance, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Dog Day Afternoon and All the Presidents Men "have few equivalents in Hollywood after the 1970s". Furthermore, he states that the last favorable year for New Hollywood was 1976, and "socially critical, stylistically adventurous cinema" would soon be substituted by "ideologically and formally conservative work" of directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The critic holds opinion that several financial fiascoes, including Sorcerer, New York, New York, Apocalypse Now, One From the Heart, and Heavens Gate, were auteur movies aspiring to achieve mainstream success but were panned by the movie-goers and critics alike. This belief is also held by J. Hoberman to whom the period immediately following 1975s One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest marked the point when "experimental films became less and less able to recoup their costs".
Justin Wyatt concludes that the downfall of "the experimental period" was followed by a retreat to "large-scale grand filmmaking", a Hollywood staple from early to mid-1960s and adds that filmmakers such as Peter Bogdanovich, Friedkin, and Arthur Penn still continued their cinematic involvement but their most ambitious work had been produced during the peak of New Hollywood era, which was characterized by "financial experimentation". Nat Segaloff observes that cinematic trends presented in Sorcerer were later abandoned by the studio system, an opinion mirrored by Phil Mucci, who holds the opinion that Sorcerer stands for a cinematic style that is unlikely to be seen again". William Friedkin states in the 2003 documentary A Decade Under the Influence that cynicism was a ubiquitous attitude in the country during the 1970s, so the studios were receptive to it, which made "filmmakers and the studio heads be in sync" and added that artistic content was never questioned, only the costs. On the other hand, the director thinks this trend is impossible to return, because he feels that nowadays "a film has to serve the greater good of the corporation in order to get made and it cannot be subversive in nature. As well as, has to have the broadest possible appeal, so that it will help other divisions of the corporation".
The film was selected for screening as part of the Cannes Classics section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
8. Court case and restoration
In April 2012, it was reported that Friedkin was suing Universal and Paramount over the domestic rights of Sorcerer for a share of the movies profits. In a July 2012 interview, Friedkin said that the films case was pending at the Ninth District Court of Appeals in California with a settlement to be announced by November 26. Had no settlement been reached by that time, the jury would have to set a trial date for March 2013. The director emphasized that his intent is not dictated by profits but by the desire to have it released on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as having a film print for various outlets, such as film societies and universities. He also highlighted that if this case becomes precedential, he wishes it would help other pictures in a similar situation.
According to Friedkin in a July 2012 interview, Universal and Paramount both claimed that they did not own the film and were not aware who did. The resulted situation is a consequence of the bankruptcy of Cinema International Corporation, a company granted an ownership by Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures, and commissioned to release films on international markets, and not domestically. At the time, Friedkin believed any issues related to the matter were of bookkeeping nature.
In December 2012, Friedkin revealed that the film rights were in fact owned by Universal, as the Paramount lease had expired after 25 years. He also added he would meet Warner Bros., which, according to him, wanted a sublease. Additionally, he announced that he would be having a meeting with the head of Universal Studios; if its outcome would be negative, he would have to resort to the legal case. Friedkin also indicated that restoration of Sorcerer would require a considerable amount of work, stating that he does not possess any prints in good quality. Furthermore, he added that Paramount was responsible for creating one between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, and he was trying to locate it, noting the difficulties related to obtaining the print as the studio no longer possesses an adequate capacity to deal with this matter and off-shore companies involved in the legal matters were now greatly reduced in staff and stated that is the reason why acquiring the films print is a time-consuming process.
On February 11, 2013, Friedkin published news that Sorcerer was being budgeted to create a new, digital master copy as well as asserted that the original negative is in a good state. He shortly followed this announcement with a definitive statement that The Criterion Collection will not be the films publisher.
In March 2013, Friedkin revealed that he had dropped his lawsuit against Universal and Paramount, and that he and a "major studio" were involved in the creation of a new, recolored digital print of Sorcerer, to be tentatively screened at the Venice Film Festival and to receive a Blu-ray release:
Were working off the original negative, which is in pretty good shape, but without changing the original concept we have to bring it back in terms of color saturation, sharpness and all the stuff. The film been in a legal whirlpool for 30 or 35 years. And a lot of people have come and gone from the studios during that time, so it just takes awhile to unravel everything, but were very close to announcing a premiere date.
On April 14, 2013, the aforementioned 35 mm print of Sorcerer from the Paramount archives was screened at the Chicago Film Critics Associations first annual film festival, with Friedkin in attendance. Friedkin remarked that the film "hasnt dated. Its set in a kind of limbo and neither the haircuts nor the wardrobes nor the sets have aged poorly."
On May 2, 2013, the director announced the re-release, a new, digital print, along with a precise premiere date - on August 29 - at the Venice Film Festival, where he is set to receive a lifetime achievement award. The print is supervised by Friedkin himself, along with Ned Price and a colorist, Bryan McMahan, Friedkins collaborator since 1994. In addition, Friedkin also confirmed a DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases. Friedkin has stated that Warner Bros. financed the restoration, and that the distribution rights will be split between Paramount for theatrical, Warner Bros. for home and streaming media, and Universal for television. A week later Friedkin also added the making of the new print would commence in June. The director concluded his efforts to restore and re-release Sorcerer as "a truly Lazarus moment" and said he is most gratified that "it’s going to have a new life in cinema".
On June 4, 2013, the director declared that the color grading would commence on June 10, 2013, which he later followed up with a tweet on June 25, stating the process is now completed, without distorting original colors, and that 5.1 surround sound transfer is going to take place on June 28, 2013. Moreover, he also revealed an audio commentary and extra features are going to be a part of its upcoming Blu-ray release. On July 17, 2013, Friedkin announced that the films soundtrack has been remastered. Two days before the Venice screening, Friedkin announced that a theatrical screening has been booked at Los Angeles Cinefamily for spring 2014. On September 12, 2013, Friedkin revealed April 14, 2014 as the release date of the films Blu-ray home video version.