#2 Sorcerer (dir: William Friedkin, 1977)
The penultimate chapter in the Top Twenty Films Challenge between myself and Laurent di Alberti’s FilmLand Empire blog is in. Tomorrow we’ll both be revealing our number one movies! But first up is the almost ran … the faraway, so close entry. The runner up. The silver medal.
William Friedkin is the only filmmaker to appear in my top twenty list twice. He also makes an appearance in Laurent’s (Cruising). Which means he’s a really good director. I picked the seriously underrated To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) has my number #16 a couple of weeks ago and my second favourite film ever, at number #2, is the criminally unloved Sorcerer (1977).
Although known as a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear, Friedkin’s sterling picture was actually the second US adaptation. Howard Koch made his version, The Violent Road, in 1958. Sorcerer, I swear to God, is the greatest American action thriller ever made. I genuinely believe it. Friedkin’s building of tension is incredible and the atmosphere he creates is stunning. And he filmed a rope bridge sequence that rivals any set piece Clouzot came up with for his equally great movie. But truth be told, if I was to chose between Clouzot and Friedkin: Sorcerer wins. Unfortunately, the film has got a rather poor reputation because it opened the week before George Lucas’ Star Wars and sank without a trace making a fraction of its budget back (one of the biggest at the time). The production itself was fraught with tension and Friedkin was accused of having a bullying attitude. He also earned the name ‘Hurricane Billy’ due to his on-set flare ups.
Sorcerer is a true masterpiece (and I mean masterpiece) and can sit alongside Clouzot’s original with pride. The set pieces are amazing; the visuals atonishing; Tangerine Dream’s score fantastic, and Roy Scheider gives the performance of his career as low down dirty crook Jackie Scanlon, on the run from the Mob, and forced to do a job for a new identity/passport. After all the palava of transporting dynamite across a jungle, the past catches up with Jackie but Friedkin, the sod, leaves the man’s fate hanging. Expect this to be hailed a master work by everybody if the much-discussed Blu-ray edition appears. I’ll sit back smugly with a ‘I told you so’ expression on my face.
The Top Twenty Films Challenge is an inter-blog daily feature between myself and Laurent di Alberti at FilmLand Empire blog. Each of us will reveal our Top 20 favourite films. On Thursday 12th, Laurent picked Pedro Almodovar’s Law of Desire as his number #3.