Sorcerer (1977)

Sorcerer (1977), produced and directed by William Friedkin.

A group of men, each hiding out in a remote South American village for reasons of his own (all involving death), sign up for the ultimate suicidal payday: driving junker heavy trucks carrying unstable nitroglycerin over crumbling mountain roads I wouldn't attempt with someone else's wheelbarrow.

This is a kick-ass, unsentimental tough guy adventure film without a moment of cuteness. The scenes of driving on the decaying rope bridge over the flooding river is the stuff of nightmares. I couldn't believe they found actors willing to do it. Even now, knowing the bridges were specially constructed and the trucks tethered to keep them from tipping over: it still looks dangerous as hell.

You know what separates real adventure stories from the wannabes? The emphasis on gear. Read H. Rider Haggard's account of how Alan Quaterman prepares for safari, the attention to detail. Here our crew -- apparently all expert mechanics and drivers -- assemble two usable trucks from junkyard parts. One of the trucks is called "Sorcerer", a needlessly obscure choice for the name of the film.

When I saw this in the theater I was confused by who some of the characters were and what they were doing in the jungle village. It's clearer now with subtitles, but I'm still not sure what the assassin is doing there or why he wants to go on the suicide mission.

Roy Scheider is a 70s favorite; I can't see enough of him.

Ignored at the time (Star Wars (1977) came out the same week) but fondly regarded since. The old DVD was cropped to 1.33 and the Blu-ray is very welcome.

I'll have to see The Wages of Fear (1953) again someday. I remember it being very French. I like this version better.

Available on Blu-ray with excellent color and detail, much finer than I ever expected to see for this obscure movie. Subtitles but otherwise bare-bones. A rumored commentary track did not appear. Digibook case with booklet.