• James Rutherford

'Sorcerer': A Riveting Thriller About Four Criminals Transporting Nitroglycerin Through the Jungle


Movie poster for the film Sorcerer starring Roy Scheider, Francisco Rabal and Bruno Cremer

"Sorcerer" (1977) is an altogether riveting thriller about four men hired to transport hazardous nitroglycerin through the Latin American jungle in order to extinguish oil fires raging hundreds of miles away. Desperate to escape their lives of deprivation, the haggard quartet embraces their dangerous mission—one that entails the navigation of large cargo trucks across achingly treacherous terrain.


Opening with a series of vignettes that presents each of the four principals committing acts of crime that drive them from their home countries (Mexico, Israel, France and America), the storyline finds each of them hiding out in a rural Latin American village, in dire need of salvation. When an American oil well explodes and drivers are needed to deliver the nitroglycerin to the explosion site, site supervisor Bieri (Ramon Bieri) enlists Scanlon (Roy Scheider), Manzon (Bruno Cremer), Kassem (Amidou), Nilo (Francisco Rabal) for the treacherous assignment. Their mission becomes one of enormous risk and grave personal danger, as the slightest shift to their payload threatens to blast them from existence.


Directed by William Friedkin ("The Exorcist", "The French Connection") and based on the 1950 French novel "Le Salaire de la Peur" (previously produced as the 1953 film "The Wages of Fear"), "Sorcerer" is a breathtaking and mesmerizing adventure story. Friedkin wrings palpable tension from Walon Green's screenplay while delivering a succession of jaw-dropping, how-did-they-do-that set pieces imbued with striking atmospherics. Major tip of the hat to Tangerine Dream, as well, whose electronic music score is deeply evocative and seamlessly married to the film's lustrous photography. It's an oft-forgotten gem of 1970's cinema highly worthy of newfound appreciation.

 

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