Sorcerer (1977)

PG | 121 mins | Drama | 24 June 1977

Director:

William Friedkin

Writer:

Walon Green

Producer:

William Friedkin

Cinematographers:

John M. Stephens, Dick Bush

Production Designer:

John Box

Production Company:

Film Properties International
Full page view
HISTORY

End credits include the following acknowledgment: “This film is dedicated to H. G. Clouzot.” French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot directed a 1953 film adaptation of the 1952 Georges Arnaud novel The Wages of Fear.
       Sorcerer refers to the name of one of the trucks driven in the film. Several critics, including Richard Cuskelly in the 24 Jun 1977 LAHExam, complained that the title gave audiences the false impression that Sorcerer, like Friedkin’s earlier film, The Exorcist (1973, see entry), also dealt with the supernatural. On 14 Mar 1978, the LAT reported that the film would be released in Europe as The Wages of Fear, but a 15 Nov 1978 Var news item stated that the film opened in Paris, France, as Convoy of Fear.
       A microfilm copy of the printed credits at AMPAS library, dated 18 May 1977, include the following statement: “Acknowledgment is made to the Navajo Film and Media Commission of the Navajo Tribal Council, whose cooperation made it possible for parts of Sorcerer to be filmed on Navajo lands (in and around Farmington, NM); and to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Farmington Resource Area, Farmington, NM, for its cooperation in enabling Sorcerer to be filmed on Federal lands.” The same credits also include the Miles Davis song “So What,” but neither statement appears in the onscreen credits.
       A 7 Apr 1975 LAT column announced Friedkin’s next project would be The Sorcerer, with David Salven as producer. However, a 20 May 1976 DV news ... More Less

End credits include the following acknowledgment: “This film is dedicated to H. G. Clouzot.” French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot directed a 1953 film adaptation of the 1952 Georges Arnaud novel The Wages of Fear.
       Sorcerer refers to the name of one of the trucks driven in the film. Several critics, including Richard Cuskelly in the 24 Jun 1977 LAHExam, complained that the title gave audiences the false impression that Sorcerer, like Friedkin’s earlier film, The Exorcist (1973, see entry), also dealt with the supernatural. On 14 Mar 1978, the LAT reported that the film would be released in Europe as The Wages of Fear, but a 15 Nov 1978 Var news item stated that the film opened in Paris, France, as Convoy of Fear.
       A microfilm copy of the printed credits at AMPAS library, dated 18 May 1977, include the following statement: “Acknowledgment is made to the Navajo Film and Media Commission of the Navajo Tribal Council, whose cooperation made it possible for parts of Sorcerer to be filmed on Navajo lands (in and around Farmington, NM); and to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Farmington Resource Area, Farmington, NM, for its cooperation in enabling Sorcerer to be filmed on Federal lands.” The same credits also include the Miles Davis song “So What,” but neither statement appears in the onscreen credits.
       A 7 Apr 1975 LAT column announced Friedkin’s next project would be The Sorcerer, with David Salven as producer. However, a 20 May 1976 DV news item stated that Friedkin replaced Salven as producer and Salven does not appear in onscreen credits. A 1 Aug 1975 DV article, reported a start date for principal photography in Nov or Dec 1975, with a six-month schedule and plans for a Christmas 1976 release. The story also stated that Friedkin wanted Warren Oates for the lead role of “Scanlon/’Dominguez,'” but the part went to Roy Scheider. On 31 Oct 1975, a DV article announced Paramount Pictures Corp. was set to co-produce the film with Universal Pictures, but the studios are credited onscreen as distributors. Despite the earlier plan to begin production in Nov 1975, a 10 Feb 1976 HR news item reported that Friedkin was still confirming locations, as he hoped to shoot in Jerusalem, Israel, for two weeks in Apr 1976, and a 12 Apr 1976 Box article announced that Friedkin had finished eighteen months of pre-production work; principal photography began 6 Apr 1976 in Paris, France. A 31 Mar 1976 DV story added planned locations in Jerusalem, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and New Jersey. On 17 May 1976, Box reported that filming was “underway” in New York and New Jersey after completing work in Paris and Jerusalem. The majority of filming was scheduled for the Dominican Republic in “40,000 acres of primeval forest,” according to the 12 Apr 1976 Box. However, a 12 Oct 1976 LAHExam news item reported that due to the end of the rainy season in the Dominican Republic, the production was forced to move to Mexico, and “delays and temperament” had doubled the budget from $9 million to $18 million. A 10 Jul 1977 NYT article estimated the final cost to be as high as $21 to 23 million.
       A 1 Dec 1976 DV brief stated that Universal and Paramount were unable to agree on who would be domestic distributor, so they split the country, with one studio taking east of the Mississippi River, the other west. Paramount distributed the film in the east, per a 6 Jul 1977 Var news item. According to a 15 Jun 1977 Var story, exhibitors were given specific instructions by Paramount when screening Sorcerer : dim the house lights to half for a three-and-a-half-minute overture, and darken the theater completely before opening the curtain in advance of the first frame of the film. “Under no circumstances should any trailers, short trailers, smoking or presentation tags, etc. be spliced between the end of the overture music and the beginning of the feature presentation.” Theaters were also warned not to splice the overture reel to the opening reel of Sorcerer. An 8 Jun 1977 Var announced that there would be no advance screenings for the press, prior to its 24 Jun 1977 opening.
       On 15 Feb 1978, Var published a statement from Friedkin, who objected to the extensive re-editing by Cinema International Corp. (CIC), including cutting twenty-nine minutes from the film for its international release. The director labeled this version “mutilated” and “no longer representative of the film I have made.” A 14 Mar 1978 LAT article stated the film had been trimmed by forty-eight minutes.
       Most critics agreed with Charles Champlin’s 24 Jun 1977 LAT review, in which he called Sorcerer, “a swollen, leaden and almost totally uninvolving disappointment.” However, Jack Kroll, writing in 4 Jul 1977 Newsweek, felt the film’s “clenched power has a cruel and compelling beauty.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Apr 1976.
---
Box Office
17 May 1976.
---
Box Office
4 Jul 1977.
---
Daily Variety
1 Aug 1975.
---
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1975.
---
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1976.
---
Daily Variety
20 May 1976.
---
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1976.
---
Daily Variety
8 Feb 1977.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1977.
---
Films and Filming
May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1977.
---
LAHExam
12 Oct 1976.
---
LAHExam
24 Jun 1977.
---
Los Angeles Free Press
1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Apr 1975
Section IV, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jun 1977
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
14 Mar 1978
Section E, p. 8.
Motion Picture Production Digest
20 Jul 1977
p. 16.
New Republic
30 Jul 1977.
---
New Times
22 Jul 1977.
---
New York
1 Aug 1977
p. 65.
New York Times
25 Jun 1977
p. 11.
New York Times
10 Jul 1977.
---
Newsweek
4 Jul 1977.
---
Time
11 Jul 1977.
---
Variety
1 Aug 1975.
---
Variety
8 Jun 1977.
---
Variety
15 Jun 1977.
---
Variety
29 Jun 1977
p. 26.
Variety
6 Jul 1977.
---
Variety
15 Nov 1978.
---
Variety
15 Feb 1978.
---
Village Voice
18 Jul 1977.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Key grip
Lighting gaffer
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Draftsman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Orig mus comp and performed by
Mus eff
Mus eff
SOUND
Dubbing mixer
Re-rec
Re-rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod secy
Casting dir
Tech adv
Scr supv
Transportation coord
Helicopter pilot
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst to the prod
Secy to the dir
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Wages of Fear by Georges Arnaud (New York, 1952).
MUSIC
"Spheres (Movement 3)," performed by Keith Jarrett, used under license from Polydor Incorporated and through the courtesy of ECM Records.
SONGS
"I'll Remember April," written by Gene De Paul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye, performed by Charlie Parker, courtesy Verve Records.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Wages of Fear
Convoy of Fear
Release Date:
24 June 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 24 June 1977
Production Date:
began 6 April 1976 in Paris, France, Jerusalem, Israel, NJ, NY, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Farmington, NM
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
121
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24844
SYNOPSIS

In a Veracruz, Mexico, apartment, an assassin named Nilo shoots an unarmed man. In Jerusalem, Israel, a group of men board a bus and moments later, a bomb explodes in the street behind them. They go to an apartment to plan their escape, but the police arrive. One of the men, Kassem, escapes, another is arrested, and the others are killed. In Paris, France, investment banker Victor Manzon celebrates ten years of marriage with his wife, Blanche, who gives him an engraved gold watch. Later, he faces prosecution for financial impropriety, but negotiates a twenty-four hour reprieve. He asks his brother-in-law and partner in a century-old family firm to persuade his father-in-law to guarantee the amount owed. Later, Manzon’s brother-in-law reports his father’s verdict: younger men than himself took the risk and should therefore be responsible for the consequences. Alarmed, Manzon insists that his brother-in-law make clear that he will go to prison, but as Manzon walks away, the brother-in-law commits suicide, and Manzon flees. In Elizabeth, New Jersey, four mobsters rob a Catholic parish of $67,000 and shoot a priest. During the getaway, their car crashes into a truck and the driver, Jackie Scanlon, is the lone survivor. Later, gangster Carlo Ricci, the brother of the murdered priest, orders his men to kill Scanlon. Meanwhile, Scanlon goes into hiding and meets with Vinnie, an acquaintance who owes him a favor. Vinnie tells Scanlon to take $2,000 to Baltimore, Maryland, where he will board a train and eventually leave the country, but he is unable to specify Scanlon’s final destination. Sometime later, Scanlon awakens in a rural Latin American town. In the same town, Manzon drinks coffee in a ... +


In a Veracruz, Mexico, apartment, an assassin named Nilo shoots an unarmed man. In Jerusalem, Israel, a group of men board a bus and moments later, a bomb explodes in the street behind them. They go to an apartment to plan their escape, but the police arrive. One of the men, Kassem, escapes, another is arrested, and the others are killed. In Paris, France, investment banker Victor Manzon celebrates ten years of marriage with his wife, Blanche, who gives him an engraved gold watch. Later, he faces prosecution for financial impropriety, but negotiates a twenty-four hour reprieve. He asks his brother-in-law and partner in a century-old family firm to persuade his father-in-law to guarantee the amount owed. Later, Manzon’s brother-in-law reports his father’s verdict: younger men than himself took the risk and should therefore be responsible for the consequences. Alarmed, Manzon insists that his brother-in-law make clear that he will go to prison, but as Manzon walks away, the brother-in-law commits suicide, and Manzon flees. In Elizabeth, New Jersey, four mobsters rob a Catholic parish of $67,000 and shoot a priest. During the getaway, their car crashes into a truck and the driver, Jackie Scanlon, is the lone survivor. Later, gangster Carlo Ricci, the brother of the murdered priest, orders his men to kill Scanlon. Meanwhile, Scanlon goes into hiding and meets with Vinnie, an acquaintance who owes him a favor. Vinnie tells Scanlon to take $2,000 to Baltimore, Maryland, where he will board a train and eventually leave the country, but he is unable to specify Scanlon’s final destination. Sometime later, Scanlon awakens in a rural Latin American town. In the same town, Manzon drinks coffee in a café, then reports for work at an oil company and gives his name as “Serrano.” The surviving terrorist of the Jerusalem bombing, Kassem, now called “Martinez,” also works at the company building a pipeline. Meanwhile, Nilo arrives at the airport, where he tells an official he is on his way to Managua, Nicaragua, and bribes another official before sneaking away in a taxicab. Scanlon, now known as “Dominguez,” works at the airport. As he unloads Nilo’s airplane, a co-worker tells him it would take a year’s salary to afford a plane ticket to leave the country. Back at the pipeline, Kassem/Martinez asks another worker, Marquez, the price of a plane ticket to Argentina and learns he must earn 400 pesos, plus 1,000 pesos for a passport. Elsewhere, at the café, Manzon/Serrano offers a man his watch in exchange for passage out of the country, but the man reports that it will cost 1,000 pesos, in addition to the watch. When Manzon/Serrano and Scanlon/Dominguez reunite in the café, a local police picks up Dominguez for a having a false identification card. At the station, the police chief tells him that for every three pesos he earns, they get one, and returns the card. Meanwhile, at a remote oil well in Poza Rica, Veracruz, a bomb triggers a fire, killing and injuring many men. As the well continues to burn, the government refuses to help the oil company because the saboteurs are heroes to the people. Under pressure to meet quotas, the oil company devises a plan to fight the blaze, moving cases of nitroglycerine 200 miles to the fire site. Corlette, the project manager, decides to transport the dangerous material by truck and asks for volunteers with driving experience; Serrano, Dominguez, Martinez, and Marquez are among those chosen for the assignment. The men customize two trucks for the journey. As they carefully load the cases onto the trucks, they realize there are more than enough explosives to do the job and deduce that the company does not think both trucks will make it. Threatening to back out, the men negotiate to double their pay and receive legal residency in the country. On the morning they are set to leave, Agrippa, a woman who works in the café, gives Serrano his watch, and Martinez discovers Marquez dead with a slit throat. Martinez accuses and attacks Nilo, but the others separate them. Corlette wants to call the police, but Dominguez stops him, pointing out they need another driver. Nilo is paired with Dominguez, who warns his new partner that he has been watching him carefully since he arrived in town. Dominguez writes the number “218” in chalk above the truck’s odometer, which has been set to zero, marking the distance to Poza Rica. The first truck departs, and fifteen minutes later, Martinez and Serrano follow. Before leaving, Serrano gives Corlette a letter addressed to his wife in Paris. The trucks make their way through treacherous jungle and mountain terrain, their slow progress measured by Dominguez’s odometer. Along the way, Serrano and Martinez come to a rickety wooden bridge where Dominguez has left them a note wishing them luck. Despite Martinez’s protests, Serrano guides his partner across the bridge, but one of the truck’s tires breaks through the wood. As the rear of the truck clears the bridge, the supports beneath it fall away. Meanwhile, Dominguez and Nilo reach fifty-eight miles in a rainstorm and find when they ask an old man which road leads to Poza Rica, he replies that Poza Rica is dead. As Serrano and Martinez’s truck catches up, Dominguez tells them to take the higher road, but Serrano insists that the map shows only the lower road. Later, Dominguez encounters a rickety suspension bridge over a river and Nilo tries to run, but Dominguez demands his partner stay to guide the truck across, and they continue on. When Serrano and Martinez reach the same bridge, it is raining harder and the river has risen. Martinez guides Serrano, but he falls through a gap in the bridge and hangs on for his life. As Martinez climbs back, a large tree branch strikes the truck; Serrano hacks at the branch with a machete as Martinez uses the truck’s winch to secure a rope to a nearby tree. The truck clears the bridge just as it gives way. After it has stopped raining, Dominguez and Nilo are thwarted by a fallen tree blocking the road. Nilo laughs as Dominguez attempts to chop at the surrounding foliage, but Dominguez orders his partner to help and Nilo pulls a pistol and fires off several warning shots. When Martinez and Serrano arrive, Martinez devises an elaborate system of pulleys using rocks, twine and bags of sand to detonate some of the nitroglycerine and clear the path. Back on the road, Martinez asks Serrano about his family. As Serrano speaks about his wife in Paris and shows off the watch, the truck’s tire has a blowout, sending the vehicle over a cliff and killing both men. On the road ahead, Dominguez and Nilo come across the wreckage on the mountain below and are met by four armed rebels. Although Dominguez reports that the truck carries supplies such as toilet paper and facial tissue, the rebels plan to kill the drivers and take the truck, but Nilo refuses to get out. Looking in the back of the truck, the rebel leader is angered to discover the men have lied; however, Nilo shoots two of the rebels and Dominguez kills the leader. Nilo is badly wounded in the exchange and as they drive out of the mountains, Dominguez attempts to keep his dying partner awake. However, the desert landscape confuses Dominguez and he hallucinates. When he stops to unload Nilo’s body, the truck runs out of fuel with the odometer reading 216.7. Dominguez proceeds on foot, carrying a case of nitroglycerine. He staggers into the oil company’s facility at Poza Rica and collapses after workers carefully retrieve the case. Later, a helicopter takes Dominguez to the town where he started his journey and he is given a hero’s welcome. At the café, Corlette gives Dominguez a passport and a check for $40,000. Although, the deal called for cash, Corlette assures Dominguez that he will be able to cash it when he reaches the capital and asks him to mail Serrano’s letter to his wife. Before leaving, Dominguez dances with Agrippa, but a taxicab arrives with Ricci’s men from New Jersey, along with Vinnie, who have come to kill him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.