Sorcerer 1977 Movie Review

I had never heard of this movie until a few days ago. I scanned through my various streaming apps looking for anything that seemed interesting. “Sorcerer” doesn’t have the most appealing movie poster and to me the name would seem to imply it is some sort of schlocky fantasy sci-fi film. But alas, it is not.

Sorcerer stars Roy Scheider and a few other actors I don’t recognize. But the deal closer for me was when I saw who directed it. William Friedkin both directed and produced this film. The same William Friedkin who just a few years earlier directed the timeless horror classic The Exorcist.

Sorcerer is about a group of guys who are in self-exile in the Dominican Republic. In four separate vignettes, the film shows why each one of them ended up on the lamb. Their new situation is pitiful and hopeless until they get tasked with a special and very dangerous mission which will bring them big bucks.

The first aspects I noticed about this movie were the cinematography, film quality and direction. It felt and looked like one of the masterpieces from the 70’s era. The Godfather & Apocalypse Now came to mind. I even looked up the cinematographer right away to see if it was Vittorio Storaro behind the camera because it looked so much like Apocalypse Now, especially when the characters were in the jungle. He is the genius cinematographer behind Apocalypse Now & The Last Emperor. He has won a lot of awards. He was not the cinematographer, however. Dick Bush and John M. Stephens were co-cinematographers of this film.

The pacing of the movie was good. Most of the acting was good, especially the “extras” in the Dominican Republic scenes. Extras don’t usually get much recognition but they did excellent work here. I’m not the biggest Roy Scheider fan but he is a serviceable actor in my opinion. He was decent in this but there were a few scenes where I though he was a bit over the top. There was also a goofy scene of a random native guy who decided to play peek-a-book with a dynamite laden truck about halfway through the film. It was a scene which should have been completely left out of the final cut.

I don’t want to give away the whole plot so instead I will share with you some of the details I discovered after watching. Sometimes I like to do a deep dive into movies after watching them. Especially when they seem to be big productions with many locations.

Production Backstory

As it turns out, Friedkin set out to make this his masterpiece. The original $2.5M budget ballooned to $20M and Friedkin was forced to reach out to two major studios to get this film in the can. The terrible conditions of the shoot made for a tumultuous relationship between the crew and Friedkin. They almost revolted, as it turns out.

I have noticed a trend over the many years of watching movies and following up with the behind-the-scenes details. The tougher the shoot, the better the movie usually turns out to be. Something about harsh conditions and misery seems to bring out the best in the final product. There are exceptions, of course (see The Island of Dr. Moreau 1996 – Well, don’t actually see it.)


The movie turned out to be a flop at the theaters and only took in $9M worldwide. It came out at the same time as Star Wars and was quickly buried under the weight of that mega blockbuster hit. It was also physically buried by the studio and until the early 2000’s no one was sure who had the original. It didn’t becomeĀ  available for home viewing until after 2012. Friedkin had to take the studio to court to get the original cut. He then had it remastered. This is probably why the movie looked and sounded so good.

My Rating

I give this one a score 82 potatoes. It felt like someone combined Romancing the Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Scarface and maybe just a dash of the Exorcist. It should be noted that it was based on the novel The Wages of Fear by George Arnauld (1950) and is technically a remake of the movie by the same name which was released in 1953, although Friedkin said he doesn’t consider it a remake. Instead he thinks of it as an entirely new take on the source material.

Even though the movie was a flop at the box office and received mixed reviews from critics, it is largely considered a good movie today. It’s weird how that works. Friedkin said it was the best movie he ever made. Some of his other films are:

  • The French Connection
  • The Exorcist
  • Cruising
  • To Live and Die in L.A.
  • Blue Chips
  • Rules of Engagement
  • The Hunted
  • Killer Joe


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