Sorcerer (1977)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Roy Sheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou
Extras: Booklet

William Friedkin's adventure film "Sorcerer" never really ended up in the limelight and could probably be considered one of the director'a more obscure films. Overshadowed by the success of the "The French Connection" and more so, "The Exorcist" Friedkin's previous film, "Sorcerer" never found its audience. Fortunately for us, Warner Home Video has decided to give the film the Digibook treatment.

Despite its misleading title, "Sorcerer" is not a fantasy film, but rather a gritty thriller/adventure with an unlikely cast of protagonists. As the film opens, we meet four criminals, each of them despicable and unsympathetic. There is Kassem (Amidou), an Arab terrorist, Nilo (Francisco Rabal), a Mexican hitman, Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer) a French business fraud and Jackie Scanlon (Roy Scheider), an Irish mobster and murderer.

To escape the long arm of the law, they all find refuge in the village of Porvenir, in Colombia, deep in the South American jungle, where they work for an oil company on the borderline of existence, not making enough money to starve, yet not enough to move on either.

When a fire destroy an oil rig, the company decides to use dynamite to stop it, a common practice in the industry, but they soon realize that their dynamite had been neglected. Incorrect storage allowed the nitroglycerin to leak out, making the crates extremely fragile and dangerous cargo. Planning a transport via trucks, it is a suicide mission through the jungle, but the company is offering enough money to those men willing to take the risk. Naturally, the four anti-heroes of our story take the job and inch their way through the jungle, always on the brink of setting off an explosion.

Despite it often overlooked status, "Sorcerer" has managed over the years to gather a cult following. You will always find people talking about how cool the film is, how intense it is and how captivating the story is. Well, while it's not a bad film, I think I would have to disagree. The first act of the film is incredibly long, introducing us to the main characters one by one in scenes that do little to intrigue. It is followed by them slowly settling in Colombia and meeting each other, still without creating a whole lot of intrigue. It takes a long time for the movie to finally hit it off with the fire that triggers the film's actual story, by which time many viewers may already have given up on the film. While I understand Friedkin's approach and desire to keep the characters gritty in the beginning, it becomes detrimental to our emotional attachment to the film. Constantly mouth-tied, saying only the barest minimum, and what is being said coming across as pretend-tough one-liners, the film truly has trouble getting into gear.

Things do change however, once the men set out on their 200 mile trek, as the imminent danger of explosion and death hangs over them like a shroud. Here Friedkin makes good use of his cinematic devices, creating suspense, adding to it the exotic jungle location, and builds a taut adventure story.

Warner Home Video is presenting "Sorcerer" in a 1080p high definition transfer that is ensuring that the film looks its very best. With deep blacks that enhance the gritty atmosphere of the film with its stark contrasts, the film is truly dimensional and deep. Colors are bold and rich, making sure the lush vegetation leaps off the screen, while never becoming too saturated for their own good. Since the movie has two distinctive looks – one an urban atmosphere during the film's first act, the other the much darker jungle theme – I was very pleased to see that both a reveling in detail and bring to live the proper hues throughout.

The transfer does not exhibit any notable blemishes or defects and is clean and clear throughout. Select shots show some grain, but it is important to keep in mind that in this case it is an artistic decision to bring to life the grittiness of the story.

The release features a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that is balanced and makes generally good use of the split surrounds. Not as aggressively as modern films, of course, the movie nonetheless manages to create a bustling ambiance when needed and with a good bass extension, it gives the audio plenty of body. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable, although it is the dialogue that probably dates the movie the most – aside from the Tangerine Dream soundtrack, perhaps. It sounds shelved a bit, with a limited frequency response, occasionally sounding unnaturally harsh. It is a shortcoming that can be easily overlooked, however, as it is a technical limitation of the source material and not a detriment of the Blu-Ray release.

Despite the fact that this is a Digibook release, which Warner typically uses to present special editions with plenty of bonus materials, it is surprising to find that "Sorcerer" is actually devoid of extras, except a letter from director William Friedkin. The Digibook itself has 40 pages and features plenty of set photographs, along with liner notes on various subjects of the movie. It is a nice addition to the film itself, but a few real extras, such as a commentary track or interview featurette would have certainly helped boost the release's appeal.

"Sorcerer" is a film for fans of Friedkin's work. It shows his style and signature throughout and despite being largely overlooked, it is not a bad film. It does take some getting used to, though, and is certainly not the explosive action spectacle you might first expect. The film is slow and deliberate, but definitely enjoyable.