Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not So Obscure Trailer, but still MIA on DVD in Widescreen: Sorcerer (1977, William Friedkin)

This one was rated PG?!  Amazing, and something that could only happen in the '70s...


Much ink has already been spilled about the merits of William Friedkin's mammoth vanity project Sorcerer.  In 1977, the nature of that verbiage was not so good.  But, in the more than thirty years since its initial release, it's regarded less as a bloated, unnecessary remake, and more as one man's skillfully-crafted ode to one of his cinematic heroes, Henri-Georges Clouzot and his masterpiece The Wages of Fear.  I like the idea of the mysterious title ('Sorcerer' is painted on one of the trucks in the film), but in hindsight a more literal title probably would have helped the film's business.  

One couldn't blame the trailer, however, which is a superb example of movie marketing. The voiceover explains that Friedkin hasn't made a film since 1973's The Exorcist (the trailer says '74) because he's "spent over two years, in five countries, on three continents creating his latest film, an unusual adventure into the realm of suspense." The phenomenal music is a track from the film's original score, "Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme)" by legendary Krautrock band, Tangerine Dream (here, working on their score for a Hollywood production).  The folks cutting the trailer for 1979's The Warriors liked the music so much they used the same track.  

So why no widescreen DVD?  The story is that when the film was prepared for laserdisc in the early '90s, Friedkin objected to widescreen presentations on home video and so the film went out full-frame.  In the early days of DVD, Universal simply ported over the old laserdisc transfer for their budget line DVD.  Friedkin has promised a special edition DVD with all the trimmings, but it is as of yet only a rumor...

One last bit of marginalia for the Friedkin followers out there: Friedkin claims, on the French Connection audio commentary track, to have wanted Francisco Rabal for the part of Charnier ("Frog 1") in French Connection, after seeing him in Bunuel's Viridiana. Due to some bizarre mix-up, Friedkin ended up with Rabal's co-star in that film, Fernando Rey.  The irony, of course, is that neither man is a Frenchman.  Rey proved an able villain in French Connection and its underrated sequel.  Meanwhile, Friedkin finally got his man, Rabal, for the role of Nilo in Sorcerer.



The Warriors trailer with Sorcerer score:

6 comments:

J.D. said...

I sure hope an SE DVD of this is in the works. I really love Tangerine Dream's score for this one. Alas, their presence in a film always seems to mark the commercial death for a film - THE KEEP, LEGEND, et al. Altho, RISKY BUSINESS seems to buck this trend.

Ned Merrill said...

RISKY BUSINESS does, indeed.

fate said...

yes...Sorcerer is a classic.the trailer is defintely dated but still has that edgy feeling.the ending was very dark.

J.D.: Tangerine Dream has not received enough praise in the past years.I have seen 2 cuts of Legend.The european cut
has music from Jerry Goldsmith & the princess sings.not a big difference in regards to the film.Jerry Goldsmith´s score fits more with the classic story but TD´s is much darker in it´s feeling.I was hoping to see a Legend dvd with ridley scotts commentar but none so far.

J.D. said...

Fate:

Don't get me wrong, I love TD's soundtrack work. They were influential back in the day. In regards to LEGEND, there was a SE DVD that came out a few years ago and if memory serves, I believe Ridley Scott did a commentary track for it.

Dean Treadway said...

It's a crime this is not out there in widescreen. The VHS I have obviously doesn't do this great movie justice. A remake that I think is BETTER than the original, which might be heresy, but so it remains. Another poster out of my collection! Amazing how our tastes coincide!

Ned Merrill said...

Billy Friedkin has been talking up a special edition DVD of SORCERER for awhile now. Hopefully, he won't mess with the colors as he did with the atrocity that is the FRENCH CONNECTION Blu-ray.