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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Out Of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Sorcerer (1977) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A sorry mob getaway driver Jackie 'Juan Dominguez' Scanlon (Roy Scheider), a corrupt French banker Victor 'Serrano' Manzon (Bruno Cremer), a spiffy Latino assassin Nilo (Francisco Rabal), an Arab terrorist Kassem 'Martinez' (Amidou), and an ex-Nazi 'Carlos' (Fredrick Ledebur), these all have sought refuge in Roza Rica, South America (“a good place to lay low.”) They are the hunted or the hunter as the case may be. All are in financial straits. When the local oil company needs four drivers for two trucks to trans­port six cases of unstable dynamite 200+ miles on a “suicide mission” in order to “blow” a well that caught fire, their offer of “exceptional wages” garners them four expend­able workers above who in two teams of two set out to traverse a jungle trail, negotiating unfore­seen terrain, weather, guerillas, halluc­inations, and idiots on the road.


“Sorcerer” well illustrates the uncertainties of life, something along the lines of, (Eccl. 9:11-12)

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of under­standing, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

One would think that the one terrorist who's fleet enough of foot not to get nabbed with his cronies has made it (“the race … to the swift”), that the well-armed freedom fighters could subdue two hapless drivers in the middle of the jungle (“the battle to the strong”), that the smart banker could enjoy some haute cuisine (“bread to the wise”) with his wife w/o being interrupted for “business,” that upon delivery of the goods, the savvy drivers would effect their money management just fine (“riches to men of under­standing”), and that the man responsible for saving the oil well (and every­one's jobs) would get the key to the city (“favour to men of skill”), but they keep getting thwarted by the unexpected. It happens again and again, which increases the tension in the film. It's like fish being caught in a net; they don't see it coming, and then it's curtains.

There's an artistic parallel employed in this film. In Elizabeth, NJ Jackie Scanlon and crew rob the takings of a BINGO game in St Lady of the Lake's base­ment, infringing on the rival mob territory of one Carlo Ricci (“He robbed my church.”) At the same time a wedding is taking place on the floor above them. The priest declares, “What God has joined, man must not divide.” Later in the jungle a stash of dynamite is examined to discover it had not been “turned,” so the oily liquid nitro­glycerine was seeping out making it dangerous to handle. Sticks of dynamite consist of a "marriage" of nitro and a porous filler. One does not want that union to be divided, either.

These two different senses of the word marriage have an expected stick-to-it-ness in common, the first being a sacred union with a religious impetuous, the second merely [!] a utili­tarian joining. In the States the priest also performs a secular role of turning in the correct licensing materials to cover the utilitarian functions of the state. Every religion is granted the same privilege according to religious liberty in the First Amendment. In order for the state to not violate the establishment clause, how­ever, the couple must bring their own witnesses, even when the ceremony is officiated by a JP. This because—and especially in a Catholic ceremony—a wedding establishes a mini-congregation, as it were, in orbit around the new couple (“You've declared your consent before the Church.”) These two principles of the 1st Amendment comprise what is commonly referred to as separation of church and state. In South America it's done by having two separate ceremonies, a religious one followed by a civil. Here in the U.S. depending on the state—and what the Supreme Court says—we've had introduced some­thing called same-sex marriage that forces us to reexamine our time honored notions. As this is some­thing that proceeded from the state that can't and doesn't force the church to comply—and indeed they won't en masse as they do with hetero unions—, it is necessarily utilitarian in nature, as is that dynamite. Some homo couples want that dynamite in their relation­ships, regardless. In South America homo­sexuality is still considered immoral and recog­nition of such couples out of the question.

Production Values

Sorcerer” (1977) is named Sorcerer after one of the trucks trans­porting the nitro-leaking TNT. Perhaps it will take some kind of sorcery to survive the journey. “Sorcerer” (1977) is directed by William Friedkin and was adapted to the screen by Waldo Green from Georges Arnaud's novel Le Salaire de la Peur (The Wages of Fear). It's a remake of the 1953 French movie version, “Le Salaire de la Peur,” keeping the same plot points and situations, but changing the characters. This 1977 version is more grounded in the original novel. It stars Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, and Amidou. Unfortu­nately, it lacks any big name stars—not for lack of trying—, but Bruno Cremer is adequate enough, and lead man Roy Scheider is terrific. Amidou who played the Arab terrorist was the sole first pick.

It's rated PG. There's an original, unusual, moody score by the German rock band Tangerine Dream, which works well in the middle but seems rather ham-handed at either end. Cinema­tog­raphy by John M. Stephens and Dick Bush succeeds despite technical obstacles of location. It captured the veri­simili­tude of the exotic locale.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Due to poor marketing and timing, this film flopped when it was first released. Now that it's out again, some people like it and some don't. It leans heavily towards man & machine vs nature while leaving the characters some­what under­developed in their relations to each other. I liked it, but that doesn't mean the next guy will. I'm easy to please with all kinds of movies. If it sounds like you might enjoy it, you probably will.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability for children: Suitable for children, with some guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.