William Friedkin ‘Sorcerer’ Getting New Life At Venice Film Festival

The William Friedkin thriller Sorcerer from 1977 has been cleared to receive a recolored digital print with designs on playing at the Venice Film Festival if the task can be completed on time, The Wrap reported earlier this week.

Even better news for the average viewer, however, is that the re-release will find its way to Blu-ray for the first time.

Sorcerer was available briefly on DVD in the 1990s, but the worn transfer hardly made optimal use of the format.

Director Friedkin has been trying to get the powers that be — namely Universal and Paramount — to do something with the film for several years, going so far as to file a lawsuit against the pair “to save the afterlife of the film,” he told IndieWire in 2012.

Friedkin dropped the suit once the rights issues were settled and in February promised the digital transfer. Now it appears that promise is closer to becoming a reality.

“We’re working off the original negative, which is in pretty good shape, but without changing the original concept we have to bring it back in terms of color saturation, sharpness and all the stuff,” Friedkin told The Wrap, adding that if the transfer could be completed in time, Sorcerer would play Venice before heading to store shelves.

Sorcerer starred Roy Scheider and was Friedkin’s largely forgotten follow-up to The Exorcist. The film was released in 1977 and according to The Numbers, only racked up $12 million of its $21.6 million budget before disappearing into obscurity.

Part of the problem: it was released at the same time as a movie you may have heard of called Star Wars.

Also, how do you follow The Exorcist, especially when you shift gears from one of the scariest movies people of the time had seen to a tense adventure-thriller set in the South American jungles.

It’s possible audiences expected another excursion into the supernatural, especially with a title like Sorcerer. What they got instead was a remake of a film classic called The Wages of Fear.

The updated plot followed a group of outcasts forced to work in a remote oil drilling operation in South America. Four are given a chance to earn their freedom by transporting six crates of unstable explosives stored in the back of poor, outdated trucks through miles of rickety jungle.

Friedkin made expert use of the dire situation to build suspense at every turn, and the film holds up well today. In fact, Stephen King, writing for Entertainment Weekly, has even said he prefers this version to the original.


The film’s stock has definitely risen through the years. While critics like Leonard Maltin maligned the effort at the time of its release, it now holds a 76 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Friedkin, whose Killer Joe showed the director still has some of that old school intensity left in his system, will direct Nicolas Cage next in I Am Wrath.

Personally, as fans of Sorcerer, we’d rather Friedkin get the film back in circulation before moving on to something else. What do you think?

Have you seen William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, and will you be picking up the Blu-ray when it arrives?

Here’s the trailer:

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