Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Georges Arnaud's acclaimed novel LE SALAIRE DE LA PEUR has been boldly brought to the screen twice. Both films are among the most tense, visceral viewing experiences ever put on celluloid. Both are damn near masterpieces of the cinematic art. And both personify what I call "sphincter cinema" -- your pucker power will be severly tested as you experience more continuous, uncompromising, high-voltage, searing suspense than you'll find anywhere else on the Blockbuster shelf.

In 1953 Henri-Georges Clouzot directed WAGES OF FEAR, starring Yves Montand, Charles Vanel and Clouzot's wife, Vera, in a gut-wrenching role that forever defines the word pathos. Winner of the Grand Prize Award at Cannes, WAGES OF FEAR is a classic.

Twenty-four years later acclaimed director William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST) makes another French connection by adapting Arnaud's book with equal existential edginess and a similar unforgiving fatalistic philosophy.

What makes these two films so powerful and cinematic is that both directors are master filmmakers who eschew dialogue and commit to propelling their narratives forward through what is "seen," not what is "heard." Character development occurs primarily through action and behavior...and it is presented naked and raw and unrelentingly on the big screen. You and your rosy red will be riveted, I guarantee.

Interestingly enough, Roy Scheider was cast in the lead role only after Friedkin had been rejected by Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson. It is interesting to try and envision how SORCERER would have played out with any one of these bigger names. For my money, Scheider's on-screen performance is the equal to Montand's in his portrayal of the flawed anti-hero. Unfortunately, his presence probably had a negative effect on the film's performance at the box office since he was nowhere near the marquee name as the others.

While WAGES is the better of the two productions overall, the suspension bridge sequence in SORCERER is unparalleled. Costing over $2 million to shoot over a period of three months, this fifteen or so minutes of sheer suspense will leave you emotionally drained and damn near catatonic.

SORCERER also scores big thanks to the effective musical score by Tangerine Dream -- it's the perfect musical accompaniment for this hellish atmospheric nightmare.