The Force was not with William Friedkin’s SORCERER at the time of its theatrical release in June of 1977. Friedkin’s widely-anticipated follow-up to the box office juggernaut that was The Exorcist (1973), a nominal remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear (1953), had the misfortune to open a month after George Lucas’ Star Wars… in fact, SORCERER was booked into Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (then known as Mann’s) in Los Angeles right after the Lucas film. As if a switch had been flipped somewhere in the world, Star Wars had become in a moment state of the art, the new model for what a blockbuster should be, while moody, dark-hued thrillers that were William Friedkin’s stock-in-trade had become sadly declasse. Made on a budget that rose to $21 million, SORCERER earned back less than half of that worldwide while Friedkin’s wunderkind status was downgraded to “director-for-hire.”
“You are about to see an undiscovered classic,” announced venue host Tom Brown at tonight’s screening of a digitally restored SORCERER, which was held, with pleasing circularity, in the very venue from which it had gotten the bum’s rush back in the summer of ’77. Of course, Tom was largely preaching to the choir, as many of us had admired the film those many years ago and have been frustrated by its poor translation to television and the home video market. Also on hand for tonight’s screening were William Friedkin himself, and SORCERER Walon Green, whom Friedkin had hired on the strength of his classic script for Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1968). No stranger to acting as his own historian, Friedkin was in an exceedingly humble frame of mind tonight, thanking Green effusively for his contribution to SORCERER and also bringing to the stage of the newly-christened TCL Chinese Theatre Imax three men whose work were integral to the film’s digital restoration. Prefatory comments were kept to a minimum in order to put SORCERER on the screen in timely fashion. On reappraisal, the film did not disappoint festival attendees, who applauded the film’s key action and suspense setpieces as if they were jazz solos. Reappraisal of the film is long overdue and sadly too late for the film’s four stars: Roy Scheider, Francisco Rabal, Bruno Cremer, and Amidou, who have all passed away in the intervening years. Happily, their partipation in SORCERER endures and stands in stunning dedication to their craft and passion.