Ed here: One of my all-time favorite movies, a masterpiece that virtually nobody
seemed to understand when it opened. One of the most chilling, unforgettable
(I have to use the word) existential journeys ever put to film.
William Friedkin spent years trying to untangle the studio rights that kept his 1977 filmSorcerer in limbo.
The film, a remake of Henri-George Clouzot’sThe Wages of Fear co-produced by Paramount and Universal, was a financial flop upon release but its reputation has grown over the years even has it became harder to see, unable to be screened in theaters or released on home video.
Last year he succeeded in cutting through the knotty rights conflicts and a restored version, mastered from a 4k scan of the original 35mm negative and supervised by Friedkin, screened at the Venice Film Festival, where Friedkin was awarded the Career Golden Lion. A theatrical re-release is planned for early 2014.
Now Warner Bros. has officially announced that it will release the film on Blu-ray and DVD on April 22.
The press release is short on details—it notes that the Blu-ray will come in a 40-page Blu-ray book with images from the film and excerpts from The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir—but back in June, Friedkin posted on his Facebook page that he will record a commentary track and include extras for the Blu-ray release.
The official press release is below, after the jump.
MAKES LONG-AWAITED DEBUT ON BLU-RAY™ APRIL 22
William Friedkin’s Lauded Film Now Newly Remastered, with 40 Page Blu-ray Book
Burbank, Calif., January 6, 2014 – William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, the cult suspense thriller that has been largely overlooked since its 1977 release, has now been acquired and fully restored by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and will make its Blu-ray™ debut on April 22, 2014. The release, also available on DVD, will be packaged as a 40-page Blu-ray book filled with beautiful images from the film and excerpts from the book, “The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir.”
Sorcerer is derived from the same Georges Arnaud novel that inspired Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 French classic, The Wages of Fear. The film, made following the successes of Friedkin’s The FrenchConnection and The Exorcist, tells the story of four men who, for various reasons, cannot return to their own countries and end up in a dismal South American town where an American oil company is seeking courageous drivers willing to haul nitroglycerin through 200 miles of treacherous terrain. The four displaced men have nothing to lose so they agree for a small payment of cash.
Roy Scheider (Jaws), Bruno Cremer (Under the Sun), Francisco Rabal (Dagon) and Amidou (Ronin) star in Sorcerer which Friedkin directed from a Walon Green (The Wild Bunch) screenplay. The haunting music was the first credit for Tangerine Dream, the German electronic experimental band who went on to provide many successful scores for such films as “Risky Business,” “VisionQuest” and “Catch Me if You Can.”
Over the years, awareness of the film has been steadily building as a result of Friedkin fan requests and newly-found praise from critics. Then last year, the director was asked to introduce Sorcerer for its screening at the Venice 70th International Film Festival where he was presented with the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement.
In a recent L.A. Times interview, prior to the Venice Film Festival, Friedkin offered some theories as to why the film may have failed to achieve commercial success when it was initially released:
“The only known actor, who was not a major star, was Roy Scheider…and people didn’t really understand the significance of the title [the name of one of the trucks] — they thought it was a film similar to ‘The Exorcist.’ [But most importantly], the film came out just after ‘Star Wars,’ a movie that became the template for the future of American film, which it basically still is.
“I have a great fondness for Sorcerer, more than any other film I’ve made. Sorcerer is the one I hope to be remembered for and the one film that came closest to my vision.”
The film has been remastered by Warner Bros., under Friedkin’s supervision along with colorist Bryan McMahan who has worked with the director since 1994. “The new restoration makes the film appear as if it was just made. None of the essentials — the clothes, the hair — are dated in any way. It looks the way it looked to me when I looked through the lens of the camera,” said Friedkin.
The restoration began with a 4K film resolution scan of the original 35mm camera negative.
Ned Price, Chief Preservation Officer of Warner Bros. Technical Operations, who oversees restoration projects for the studio, said, “I was amazed at the brilliance of the original photography. Up to this point, I had only seen poor quality 35mm theatrical prints made from inferior subtitled dupe negatives. Working from the 4K scan allowed us to free up all the information contained in the original negatives.”
The soundtrack was restored from the original 35mm 4-track stereo masters which were in remarkably good condition and contained full dynamic range.
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