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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
William Friedkin
Cast:
Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou
Writing Credits:
Walon Green (screenplay), Georges Arnaud (novel)

Synopsis:
Roy Scheider lends his intense talent to this taut action-adventure from director William Friedkin. Set on the edge of a South American jungle, a desperate four-man team, led by Scheider, must transport a volatile cargo of nitroglycerine over 200 miles of treacherous terrain in order to stop a potentially disastrous oil fire. Enter into this potentially explosive mix of split-second strategy and jolting suspense set against an outstanding score by Tangerine Dream.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Ukranian
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 117 min. (Theatrical Version)
138 min. (Unrated Extended Cut)
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/11/2014

Bonus:
• Both Theatrical and Unrated Extended Versions of Film
• “Viral Pieces: Uncut” Featurettes
• “Truth of the Situation: Making The Counselor” Interactive Program
• Sneak Peeks
• Trailers and TV Spots


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Sorcerer (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 15, 2014)

When I first viewed 1977’s Sorcerer in 1999, I went in virtually blind, as I knew next to nothing about its story. I decided to give it a try just because William Friedkin directed it as the follow-up to 1971’s French Connection and 1973’s Exorcist. With that track record, I figured Friedkin’s presence behind the camera made Sorcerer worth a look.

Here's the knowledge I had of Sorcerer before I watched it: 1) Friedkin directed it; 2) Roy Scheider starred in it; 3) it involved a truck in some capacity. That's it – that’s the list. Well, I guess I also assumed it was some kind of thriller; I was pretty sure it wasn't a romantic comedy. Otherwise, I enjoyed absolutely no clue what sort of plot the film would follow.

To some degree, I feel this can be the best way to see a movie for the first time. Imagine how exciting your favorite films would be if you had literally no idea what would happen. That’s how I first viewed Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, and I still count that as one of the great movie-going experiences of my life.

In the case of Sorcerer, however, a little foreknowledge might have been helpful, largely due to the slowness with which the story of Sorcerer develops. The film follows four desperate guys who go on a potential suicide mission to drive a truck full of nitro in a remote South American area, but the film doesn’t even hint at this narrative until we near its halfway point. For the longest time, we don’t know where the plot plans to go with its characters.

I won’t say that this lengthy setup becomes a bad thing; actually, it turns into an essential way to introduce the characters and to explain their situations. However, when you have no clue as to where the story's going, it can get somewhat frustrating and tedious.

For some movies, foreknowledge doesn't matter because they quickly make it clear where they will go. Take Star Wars. It starts with a text introduction of the story, and then immediately launches into action that sets up much of the narrative. Five minutes after the lights go down, you've met four of the eight main characters and you know much of the background for the plot.

Other movies take a much slower, more extended path. For this side of the fence, look at Alien. It takes about 30 minutes before we see any non-human life forms, and the movie gets to its halfway point prior to the initial appearance of the titular creature. Like Sorcerer, only then does the true intent of the story become apparent; until the midpoint of these films, the audience has no real idea what the overriding plot of the movies will be.

That's not a bad thing at all. I'm not espousing one way of making a film over the other; they each work very well in different situations. My point is simply that for me at least, probably since I'm so used to knowing a fair amount about movies before I see them, I found Sorcerer to be a somewhat frustrating experience for the first half simply because I had no idea where it was going.

My frustrations notwithstanding, I actually admire that kind of filmmaking. Friedkin worked much the same way in The Exorcist in that he made explicitly clear to the audience; the movie alluded to characters and circumstances but they rarely received any kind of full explanation. I liked that in The Exorcist, and I like it here as well.

Friedkin certainly offers a great deal of suspense and drama during the second hour of the film as our leads attempt to transport the nitro, something he does without benefit of any sympathetic characters. All of them present as bad guys for a variety of reasons; they wouldn't be stuck in a remote South American craphole if they didn’t need to hide from something.

Still, our conditioning makes us view them as our "heroes" whether we like it or not. Although we know little about these characters and really have no concrete investment in their futures, we nonetheless want to see them succeed.

While solid, Sorcerer doesn't seem to be as creative or as visionary as The Exorcist. The latter film stands as a unique and amazing piece of filmmaking, whereas the former's just another pretty good thriller.

Friedkin possesses an unflinching eye, apparent in the graphic nastiness of The Exorcist and in the squalor of the South American village depicted in Sorcerer. Rarely has a director made an unpleasant place look quite so horrible.

Other than that, though, I don't think that Sorcerer offers any of the cinematic creativity contained in the earlier film; even with its quirks, it simply seems more conventional to me.

Sorcerer also lacks any really interesting characters. All the acting seems very good, with a typically strong performance from Scheider, but the problem stems from the characters themselves. They're designed to be anonymous, since that's how these men need to live their lives in hiding, and that's basically how they remain. This functions just fine in regard to the plot, but it doesn't help create much interest in the roles.

(One unusual acting note: when one character dies in the film - I won't say who - his laugh reverberates with a still-living character, a kind of "last laugh" sort of thing. Maybe I'm stretching here, but the sound of this laugh very strongly resembles the Joker's post-death "laugh bag" in 1989’s Batman. Coincidence? Maybe, but I can't help but wonder if Tim Burton or a sound designer echoed Sorcerer on purpose.)

Although I don't think it becomes a great film, Sorcerer still offer an unusual tale and solid work. It's probably the kind of movie that will improve upon subsequent viewings when I feel less overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the whole thing. It may not be in the same league as Friedkin’s best films, but it still presents an intriguing, often exciting tale.


The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Sorcerer appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Even ignoring the alteration of the original aspect ratio, you’ll find a weak presentation here.

The image ranged from “fairly watchable” to “God-awful ugly”, with a fairly even blend of the two. At best, the movie remained flawed, but not horribly so. In the “good parts”, definition seemed softer than I’d like but was acceptable.

Much of the flick failed to live up to that level, though, so expect quite a lot of soft, fuzzy shots; those were closer to the rule than the exception. Many examples of jagged edges and moiré effects appeared, and mild edge haloes cropped up through the film.

Print flaws became a major distraction. While some scenes looked fairly clean, others abounded with specks, marks and spots. I also saw examples of dirt and hairs, and the image tended to wobble.

In terms of colors, the hues tended to be bland and muddy. Some of that may have stemmed from visual design, as I suspect the filmmakers opted for a semi-desaturated look, but that didn’t explain the frequently dull, lifeless tones I saw. On occasion the colors mustered a little life, but usually they were various shades of blah.

Blacks seemed murky and inky, while shadows lacked pep. Low-light shots tended to be too dark and failed to deliver good clarity. While this wasn’t a complete disaster, it had too many problems for a grade above a “D+”.

At least the Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix of Sorcerer offered a minor pleasant surprise. Not that it’s a total winner, as some issues materialized. The track sometimes took on a distracting reverb that gave it a hollow feel and meant it could lack clarity.

However, it came with a fairly ambitious – if inconsistent – soundscape for a movie from 1977. Material cropped up on the sides with moderate frequency, and the surrounds added a good sense of place. While these components could mesh awkwardly, at least they gave us a decent feel for the settings.

As mentioned earlier, audio quality had ups and downs. Speech remained intelligible and was usually fairly natural, but lines could take on a metallic, loose sound at times. Effects were similar; at times they were pretty concise, but on other occasions, they lacked definition.

Low-end was less than enthralling, so don’t expect much punch from the effects. At least the music delivered reasonable breadth, possibly because the synthesizer score didn’t attempt a lot of bombast. Ultimately, this was an inconsistent track but I liked it enough for an age-related “B-“.

Expect skimpy extras here. In addition to the film’s trailer, we get text materials. Production Notes cover seven screens and give us a short but decent overview of the movie’s creation. Cast and Filmmakers offers brief biographies for five actors and director William Friedkin.

Though not a success when released in 1977, Sorcerer holds up well over the last 37 years. It brings us an intriguing and eventually dynamic thriller with a lot going for it. The DVD offers pretty good audio but suffers from mostly poor visual quality as well as a sparse set of supplements. While I like the movie, I can’t endorse this weak DVD.

To rate this film, visit the Blu-ray review of SORCERER

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