Taking the Blu-ray for a spin.

Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 12.01.00 AM

As the proud parent of this blog, it’s not gonna come as much of a surprise that Sorcerer is one of my all-time favorite films. It affected me deeply back in 1977 (really kicked my butt, in fact) and has continued to knock me out as I’ve watched the full-frame laserdisc every couple years.

Seeing Sorcerer on Blu-ray, I was re-reminded (is that a word?) of just what a powerful experience William Friedkin’s masterpiece really is. From the level of grain to the framing to the sound design, everything took me back to the Valley Twin in June 1977. (I can still remember the curtains on either side of the screen.) Maybe that retrieved memory of the theatrical experience is why it was so powerful again. Maybe it was all the anticipation that built up as the lawsuit, transfer and re-release played out. Or maybe it’s proof of just how much difference the transfer can make to a film’s ultimate impact.

large_sorcerer_08_blu-ray_Folks, the Blu-ray is beautiful, stunning at times. We normally think of saturated color with happy films, MGM musicals and stuff like that. But with Sorcerer, the heightened color levels actually add to the squalor, turn up the heat on the oil rig fire and make the jungle more dense and scary than ever. (Are the Mercedes’ in Israel really that red?) What’s more, Sorcerer‘s sound design has always been its secret weapon (and sole Oscar nomination), and it’s flawlessly reproduced here.

I never thought I’d see Sorcerer looking this good, much less looking this good in my living room. I want to thank Mr. Friedkin for seeing it through.

Of course, we’re all disappointed that the Blu-ray isn’t loaded down with extras. But the realities of schedules and budgets and projected sales probably entered into things, and I’m glad the resources went to the transfer. Extras are extras. It’s the film itself that matters in the end.

NOTE: You’re probably aware of the trouble with the new Sorcerer DVD. It’s the old full-frame transfer that does the film a true disservice. Friedkin did not authorize its re-use and vows to rectify things. Stay tuned. But for those of you who haven’t made the switch, isn’t this the perfect time to upgrade to Blu-ray?


About Toby

I'm a writer. And a dad. And a husband. And a record collector. And a movie geek (if the movies are old). And I really wish I had a hot rod.
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15 Responses to Taking the Blu-ray for a spin.

  1. Harry says:

    My sentiments exactly. What a joy it was to behold the glorious remaster of SORCERER on my 60″ TV with colors a-popping. It’s been a long wait since I first sat up past midnight watching the movie play out for the first time on an HBO showing in my bedroom in my parents’ house. I’ve waited most of my lifetime for it. Thanks Mr. Friedkin for the fabulous effort and my personal congratulations on a wonderful cinematic achievement.

    • Ned Merrill says:

      But, again, why the need from Mr. Friedkin to add the final gunshot sound? Are 2014 audiences that much dumber than 1977 ones? Modern movies tend to beat audiences over the head with the film’s intentions / meanings to an annoying degree, spoon-feeding the audience as it were…the absence of this kind of dumbing-down practice is one of the things I so admire about the films from SORCERER’s era, so it’s quite disheartening to see the film’s own maker giving in to this impulse and altering his film in such a way, which was a masterpiece without this bit of historical revisionism.

      • Toby says:

        Maybe this is what WF meant about the audio being “reimagined.” I don’t like it at all — the old way really pulled the rug out from under you, and it’s odd how the shot doesn’t change what our brain tells us happened, but makes it a lot less powerful.

        That said, to have waited this long to get this film in this kind of shape, I can put up with it. Especially since it didn’t even register when I watched the Blu-ray.

      • Ned Merrill says:

        Yes, Toby, I’ll put up with it as well, irritating as it is. The scene, as it was, was another example of “less is more” (an adage I love no matter how many times it’s repeated); the post-post-production tinkering by Friedkin has broken that cardinal rule, unfortunately.

      • Chris says:

        Is the mono soundtrack available? Because in that case I’d just switch to the original soundtrack for that scene. I do the same with Jaws. Well actually I prefer to watch the whole film in mono instead of the stereo mix. What clinched it was the horrible new SFX for Brody killing the shark. Instead of a bullet ricochet accompanied by an explosion, its this weird metal crushing sound. It sounds more a dumpster being blown up. Spielberg actually agreed that the mono version is better.
        Its very weird that Friedkin would add the gunshot noise. Well, that’s how The French Connection ended but in that film it made more sense and felt more appropriate given that story versus Sorcerer. Its not like he’s has to prevent a Sorcerer II.

      • Toby says:

        There is only the new stereo tracks.

        The reworked audio for Jaws was terrible. Thank God the Blu-ray gave us the original mono mix.

        The Sorcerer issue is nothing like that. If someone hadn’t pointed out the gunshot on the end of Sorcerer, I don’t know that I would’ve noticed it.

        On Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 3:48 PM, The Sorcerer Blog. wrote:


  2. Some of you folks have literally waited your entire lifetime for this and I’m so happy that your dreams are now fulfilled. I’ve waited mere 2 years but even such a period of time seemed like a lifetime ago.

  3. Scott says:

    I have seen Wages Of Fear but have not seen Sorcerer before and that was because I refused to watch a full frame, crappy version of it. What’s the point of that? Until a few years ago I didn’t even know the film existed which isn’t surprising the more I have learned about what happened initially on it’s release and in the years since.

    I am not surprised there are not a bunch of extras except for the fact that there is no commentary track by Friedkin. That is a pretty basic and easy thing to do and I am sure he would have been up for it. But you are right about the studio factoring in how much it would cost to restore the film versus how many blu-rays they would sell. I work for a music reissue label and it is the same thing we go through with any title.

    I am going to invite a few friends over and take the Blu-ray for a spin with my digital video projector and surround sound.

    I am really looking forward to it.

  4. Esoth says:

    It put me in mind of my first-ever experience with DVD, that Warner Brothers logo and tones leading to the beginning of “The Wild Bunch” which I’d never seen before then. “Sorcerer” this past weekend was my first excursion into Blu-Ray, and finally a re-viewing after all the intervening decades since I watched “Sorcerer” multiple times in the theater back in ’77.

    It’s been a unique experience for me, to have a film live so long and so vividly solely in memory, and then experience it again all these years later. The opening segments moved more rapidly and compellingly than in my memory. Even more startling was the spareness (at least in terms of length of time “on screen”) of the iconic musical score. The director’s fearless tough-mindedness, particularly with the unleavened depiction of Kaseem, may have done the film no marketing favors but discomfort is little enough price to pay for it’s power. The performances are also stronger than I recalled, Ramon Bieri, is excellent in a role that might have been merely functional in a lesser director’s hands.

    A harrowing peak in a legendary career.

  5. thezest1967 says:

    Just watched it – stunning picture! I still miss the ‘devil’s asshole’ quote though – extended cut to follow Bill?

  6. I had a weird reaction to the Blu-Ray. I’ve been a devotee of this film for years, and indeed, was finally dragged into the world of Blu-Ray by this very release. I can’t argue that the Blu looks incredible… but somehow the re-worked colours and audio seemed to make it harder to connect with the film, not easier; I was surprised to find myself less moved by it in this new presentation than I’ve been in the past? Maybe it’s just a baby duck thing? Or maybe somehow the imperfections of the old DVD were forcing me to “complete” the film in my imagination, and that completed version is somehow better than what we now have? Other people have griped about the vivid-beyond-vivid greens, but the whole experience seemed kind of “more-is-less,” somehow… I’ve written more on the topic here: http://alienatedinvancouver.blogspot.ca/2014/05/perversity-re-sorcerer.html

    By the way Friedkin says in an interview somewhere that that final sound isn’t actually a gunshot, but a backfire. And, uh, what’s this “devil’s asshole” quote that’s being referred to? Over my head…

    • Ned Merrill says:

      Yes, Friedkin has been known to not only make dubious changes to his films for various home video formats (see: the initial FRENCH CONNECTION Blu-ray, the CRUISING DVD, the various iterations of THE EXORCIST on DVD and Blu-ray) and then make rather dubious justifications for these changes or shirk responsibility for them altogether (see: the re-released FRENCH CONNECTION Blu-ray). So, yes, while he says it’s actually backfire from a car (I read the interview last week), the cynic in me–based on Friedkin’s track record and his “provocateur” persona (which is equal parts real and fabricated / affected)–reads that explanation as backpedalling from his aesthetic choice to make things less ambiguous by adding a gunshot to the finale, and / or an attempt to tweak the crowd that is pissed that he made the change in the first place.

  7. thezest1967 says:

    The ‘Devil’s Asshole’ quote comes from the butchered TV cut that I saw on UK TV one night in the 1980’s (I had this on VHS until it wasn’t playable anymore). As you’ll probably remember the TV version lops off the entire beginning of the movie and inserts all of the opening shots, more or less in flash back. Instead it starts with a long helicopter tracking shot of the jungle – with Tangerine Dream’s credits in red. When the oilworkers fly out to the burning rig they have a discussion where the area is called something in Spanish and the guy either translates it or says it’s again as THE DEVIL’S ASSHOLE. That’s the kind of stupid things you remember as a kid 😉 Also from memory there were a few additional shots used in the TV cut – although nothing major (the cut I saw was awful BTW, with very poor sound and obvious hamfisted edits).
    The vivid colours on the Blu Ray take the film in a slightly different direction and yes, at times it is like watching a new film. 10/10 for the image quality from me – stunning -10/10 for no extras – I would buy the Blu Ray again if a more pumped version appeared later – perhaps that’s the idea? 😉

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