Mystics in Bali (1981)

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Indonesian government apparently discovered that films could be a lucrative source of foreign revenue, so a number of B-movies were produced, and then exported them to the West. One of these films was Mystics in Bali, a B-movie that is somewhat notable for its focus on black magic and Balinese mythology, particularly the leyak, a vampiric creature that takes the form of a flying head with hanging entrails. This is one of those low budget horror films that seems to playfully embrace its unbelievable premise to gory effect, and this sort of thing made it a hit among fans of cult horror films, and somehow, this film is in the public domain.

The plot centres on a woman named Cathy Kean, a foreign woman (depending on the dub, she is either American or Australian) who visits Bali in order to write a book on black magic, and therefore sets out to learn Leák magic, which she first heard of through her Balinese lover Mahendra. She takes lessons in black magic from the Queen of the Leák, who takes her in as her disciple and teaches her some powerful black magic, but at the price of turning her into a Leyak that must feast on the blood of newborns in order to give her master power, and it is left to the local holy men of the village to stop the forces of evil from gaining too much power.

I would call it standard horror stuff but it isn’t. The premise is very original, but the writing isn’t very good. It’s very obvious that the writers weren’t taking the film very seriously, and this is shown by the cheesy way in which the witch acts. Another flaw is that you have characters that appear from out of nowhere, and are given little screen time, so when they do appear, you’re wondering “when did they come in?”, which isn’t exactly good writing.

The acting isn’t terrible, but it’s cheesy. In fact, the English dub actually plays into the silliness of the film, which I guess is not the worst thing in the world for something like this. Here’s a fun fact though. Apparently Ilona Agathe Bastian, the actress playing the lead role, never actually acted before this film, and was a German tourist who was chosen at random by the wife of one of the film’s producers to play Cathy. That explains a fair bit.

Given that this is a low budget horror film, except a lot of cheesy special effects, and you’ll notice that the film itself looks drastically more computerised when some of the magical transformation effects happen. It’s not the cheesiest you can get out of special effects, but it can get pretty comical from here. The film isn’t terribly gory, but if you have a weak stomach, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I don’t think there’s much more I can say about this particular film. Other than its unique premise, it’s not very special, but it does have its moments.

  • Score: 57%
  • Grade: D
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Crash (1996)

Much has been made about J.G. Ballard’s Crash. You don’t even need to have read it, because the mere idea of its central premise – which concerned a group of people who become sexually aroused by staging car crashes – tells you what you need to know about why it was controversial. Naturally, you’d think that a film adaptation wouldn’t be as flaccid as what David Cronenberg’s adaptation turned out to be, but sadly I was disappointed. It takes a volatile premise of car crash fetishism and somehow turns it into a dull and boring sex fest that twists in the wind so slowly you won’t even pay attention.

The plot of the film focuses on film producer James Ballard and his wife Catherine, who are in an open marriage in which they engage in infidelities with other people, but have a lethargic love life. One night James survives a car crash and shortly begins an affair with Dr. Helen Remington, with whom he shares a bizarre sexual fetish derived from the sensation of a car crash, which James uses to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife. To understand their newfound fetish, they become followers of an underground cult of fetishists, the leader of whom believes that there is a strong connection between the violence of a car crash and the passion of sex.

As bizarre and as sultry as that sounds, it’s actually quite boring. In his own decidedly more positive review, the late Roger Ebert likened the film to “a porno movie made by a computer”, and called it “a dissection of the mechanics of pornography”. He wouldn’t have been wrong. The film certainly had this mechanical feel to it, and that might have been one of the biggest problems with the film. There’s no passion whatsoever, and whatever semblance of passion just seems artificial. Another problem is that the film isn’t exactly coherent in terms of storytelling, and the pacing is quite slow.

The acting is quite lifeless too. I’m sure James Spader has been in better films than this, because I don’t think Mr. Cronenberg got a very good performance out of him, nor out of any of the other actors. Elias Koteas was quite decent, but he wasn’t that great. The characters to me seemed quite dry and stale, and colder than snowmen, but with dormant hints of the animalistic passion that should have been at the fore in the film.

The presentation was okay, but it looked mediocre. I’d say the musical score was the best part of the movie, if mainly because it has a nice, sombre ambience that complements the film’s approach, along with the sparse, atmospheric use of electric guitars. Other than that, Crash was one boring film. Shockingly boring in fact. I’m actually quite surprised by how boring this was, but given the mechanical nature of the film, that should not of been a surprise. This glacial treatment of J.G. Ballard was perhaps a bold attempt, and was certainly controversial during its release, but you’re not missing much.

  • Score: 54%
  • Grade: D

Future Cops (1993)

There are some weird and wonderful films out there if you know where to look, and amount the more bizarre films I can find you have Future Cops. At first glance, you’re probably thinking “is this some sort of weird Chinese Street Fighter knockoff or something?”, and you’d be sort of half-right. It uses parody versions of Street Fighter characters, but for some reason there’s also a parody version of Goku in the film. The actual film is even more ridiculous than it looks.

Here’s the plot itself. In the year 2043, an evil crime lord called The General plans to take over the world, but has been arrested and sentenced to imprisonment by judge Yu Ti Hung. In retaliation, he sends his three strongest henchmen, Kent, Thai King, and Toyota on a trip fifty years into the past in order to kill the judge while he’s in his twenties, before he even has a chance to become a judge and jail him in the first place. In order to put a stop to the General’s plan, the Police Director sends three future cops, Ti Man, Broomhead, and Sing, in order to protect the young Yu Ti Hung.

The story, I’ll be blunt, is ridiculous. It opens up as a frenetic action film, with lasers and kicks flying everywhere in an orgy of action. Ten minutes into the film, however, and the film turns into a bizarre sitcom starring a young adult with bad luck. In fact, from what I’ve heard, the back of the DVD for this film says “the future cops meet a retarded boy in the past, but it’s really just our hero who happens to have bad luck”.

My main problem with the story is not that it reads like a sci-fi Street Fighter knock-off. That I can somehow live with, in fact it’s actually better than the official Street Fighter film we got with Jean-Claude Van Damme. The main problem is that it’s all over the place and it tends to meander a lot. At one point it’s an action film, and at other times it’s a rom-com. Most bafflingly, there’s a scene in which Ti-Man and Yu Ti Hung’s sister are flirting inside a budget live action version of Super Mario World. It’s hilarious to say the least. If like me you’re watching this and you don’t know Cantonese, the film is best watched with subtitles, but just hope that you don’t end up watching it with erroneous subtitles, else you get gems like “the Pope is leaking”.

The presentation isn’t all bad. In fact, the music is quite good, in a cheesy sort of way. The whole film just oozes camp, like the Cantonese cinematic equivalent of watching an episode of the 1960’s Batman TV series, except it was actually intended to be a comedy, and you’ll actually bust a gut laughing. Of course, some of the props look like they were quite cheaply made, and you’ll notice this when some of the characters are shown crashing through walls.

On the whole, Future Cops isn’t bad, and it’s incredibly hilarious if you can get your hands on it. It seems like cheap action film that uses barely disguised rip-offs of Street Fighter characters, but when it gets down to the action, this is a film that doesn’t mess around. Truly, this is perhaps one of the most ridiculous films ever made, and seemingly proud of it.

  • Score: 67%
  • Grade: C

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Nowadays very few Hollywood films get me going to the theatre anymore, chiefly because the cinema now more than ever is an outdated institution of public life, and I’m surprised that the Internet hasn’t killed it off yet. Last week, however, offered something different. From the director of The Fifth Element came the promise of an exciting new sci-fi adventure that I think was hoping to rival Star Wars in terms of scope and success. But nothing is perfect I suppose. While the film certainly has its flaws, however, I think it’s a good film with decent ideas, and if nothing else is good summer entertainment. But let’s get right down to it.

The plot of the film is set in the 28th century, largely in the Alpha space station, the film’s eponymous city of a thousand planets, where people of different species from different planets live together. The protagonists are two government agents – Valerian and Laureline – who are given the task of investigating a mysterious force lurking within part of the space station, from which people have never returned, leading the government to assume it is toxic. But all is not as it seems, and when the two agents venture further towards the area, they realise that something else is going on.

The first half of the story showed perhaps the most promise. Aside from the prologue, you had Valerian going on this wild dimension hopping mission where anything can happen and it was fun. In fact, the fast-paced action oriented parts of the film are the best part. The second half of the film, however, is rather formulaic in terms of its writing, and when you get to the big reveal (which is almost a given nowadays), it sort of dawns on me that the big twist reads like something written by Noam Chomsky. It’s not terrible, but aren’t we sick of the bad guys always being some repetitive comment on Western foreign policy? I know Hollywood is full of Marxists but give me a break.

Valerian himself was a decent protagonist. Sure, he acted a bit like a high school jock, but when it counts, he acts like a real hero. For his faults (and those of the writers) he’s a good example of what a male protagonist should look like. Laureline isn’t too bad a character, but my main problem is that the producers and writers tried too hard to make her into such a badass action heroine that she might outshine Valerian for no reason other than to appease pretentious “culture critics”. The rest of the cast gave some good performances, particularly Clive Owen’s character.

For me the worst character is Rihanna’s shapeshifting character Bubble. It seemed like a gimmicky way of getting Rihanna into the film for cheap promotion, never mind that the generation of kids who thought Rihanna was cool probably pirated her music when she was big. Even worse is that it’s another attempt to politicise the film by writing Rihanna’s character as an illegal immigrant. In times such as these it makes to come to the conclusion that it’s a naked attempt at dogwhistling open borders politics in a market that again, is oversaturated with leftist politics.

If nothing else, the film looks amazing. Valerian sports some of the finest production values I’ve seen in a contemporary film. I know it’s common for sci-fi films to have a big special effects budget, but this film just takes this to incredible heights. I think that’s what made the film so ridiculously expensive to make though. The film costed €190 million to make, and thus far it has yet to turn a profit, which unfortunately means that this ambitious sci-fi flick could end its run as a box office flop.

On the whole, however, Valerian is a good film that in the end is hindered by Luc Besson and the producers’ desperate attempts to make it hip. It obviously didn’t work, which I guess is sad because it’s a good film with good ideas, but in this day and age what tends to happen with good films is that they get crushed under the weight of the producers’ overextravagant tendency. Vanity thy name is Luc Besson.

  • Score: 72%
  • Grade: C

Fritz the Cat (1972)

Oh boy, I’ve chasing this film for five years, and now that I finally managed to find it, I could now experience it in all its freaky glory…and it was amazing. I’ve said a few times on this site (and many elsewhere in life) that I’m a big fan of Ralph Bakshi, and the reason why is that unlike the other animators of his time, he was taking animation to stranger, more mature territory. Of course, he is most famous for Fritz the Cat, the first X-rated animated film, at least in America. Controversial on release, the film broke all the rules of cartoon films, and it proved that animation could explore adult themes and turn a profit, and thus a cartoon classic was born.

The story involves Fritz the Cat, a character created in the 1960’s by the cartoonist Robert Crumb, who also wrote the other characters in the film (as a side note, Fritz was one of Crumb’s most popular characters, and became a countercultural icon during the run of Crumb’s comics). Fritz is a hedonistic university student in the late 1960’s who constantly tries to get in bed with as many women as possible. After a night of sex, drugs and avoiding “the fuzz”, he drops out of New York University and embarks on a journey through New York City in order to find himself.

The film’s story was quite a wild ride. You have Fritz going through the entire city to get his funk on, and he gets chased by cops, gets caught in the middle of a riot (which he started), and ends up in the middle of the desert and hanging out with a group of dangerous revolutionaries. It’s a surreal tale of ecstasy and emptiness, with the kind of political commentary that characterises Bakshi’s classic works of the early to mid 1970’s. Fritz also offers a window into the radical time in which it was made in its own way, poking fun at both the radical left and the radical right, while painting a deliciously satirical, and poignantly accurate picture of the hippies of its time.

Fritz is interesting character, a freewheeling college student who doesn’t like the pretentiousness of the hippies (despite aping them with the whole “quest for truth” schtick). He starts out as a completely selfish character, and to be fair he sort of remains that way throughout the film. He may be crass and horny, but he’s smart in his own way. His philosophy seems to be that the only way to learn about life is to see it and grab it for yourself. In effect, he is an embodiment of the counterculture of his time, and his interaction with the world around him often leads to hilarious results.

I’ve always loved Bakshi’s animation style, mainly because of the penchant for artistic innovative he displays. In Bakshi’s directorial debut, you see a traditional sort of style, though with a looser style than one might see in Walt Disney’s films. In addition to that, the film makes use of backgrounds made with watercolour painting, and city skylines based on tracings from photographs. There’s a nice mixture of styles blended together in a way that brings out the seediness of Fritz’s world. The film also has an excellent psychedelic music score so infectiously ecstatic it that takes you into another state of mind.

The film may have garnered a reputation as a cartoon porno (which is funny considering the sex wasn’t really that graphic) simply because it was full of brazen nudity, but it’s really far more than that. It’s a satirical exploration of the depravity, confusion, hedonism and self-delusion that permeated the late stage of the 60’s-70’s counterculture. It was an innovative work of art that pioneered the concept of adult-oriented animation, and damned if I wasn’t entertained by it.

  • Score: 89%
  • Grade: A

Daughters of Satan (1972)

I’ve said it many times before on this site, but I find that horror movies tend to be pretty boring, especially the occult-themed horror films of the 1970’s. Daughters of Satan is no exception, suffering the same exact problems as Virgin Witch, which I already reviewed last month. In fact it’s a prime example of what I’m talking about. You have a horror film whose sole purpose is to sell a sultry, cliché infested fantasy by offering whatever people in the early 1970’s considered titillating, whose writers didn’t even bother writing a decent plot that stands out in a crowded market. This film’s story may as well be the story of a glut of other films of its time.

The story of this film revolves around James and Chris Robertson, a married couple living out in the Philippines who become involved with a cult after James brings home a painting that depicts the burning of a witch who looks like wife, Chris. The painting gradually takes over Chris’ personality, and joins with two reincarnated witches in order to destroy James.

I will be blunt, the story is completely daft. How on earth does a painting take over the personality of a woman just because they look alike? To many it screeches of lazy writing from a band of hacks. It also doesn’t help that the film is slowly paced, and most of the plot is actually boring conversation. If they’re going to make some cheesy occult horror film like one that’s already been repeated over and over again, they should have at least put in something interesting to keep you watching, because if I’m being very honest, who honestly enjoys watching this? If you do let me know in the comment section and make your case for why this is an underrated classic.

Most people who’ve heard of this film have probably know this as an early screen role for Tom Selleck, and honestly, he’s not bad in this film, although he does kind of take a backseat to the witches in the film, which doesn’t seem like the mark of a good film. The acting overall is very mediocre. None of the characters were even remotely convincing, and everyone in the film was a bore. Not an intolerable bore, but a bore nonetheless.

The presentation isn’t too bad, but it looks and sounds pretty typical for its time, and it certainly doesn’t get you interested at all, and that’s too bad because the way I see it, it’s basically just another Virgin Witch. They’re marketed the same, and one of the characters’ name is even a variation of Virgin Witch’s Christine. If anyone can help it, they won’t watch the movie because it’s boring. It’s not the worst film you can find. I’ve absolutely seen and reviewed worse on this site, but if you can help, stay away from the film. If you must watch it however, don’t pay for it. It’d be a waste of your hard-earned money, and I’m convinced most films of the genre are.

  • Score: 47%
  • Grade: D

Caligula (1979)

Picture this for a moment. You have Tinto Brass working with an illustrious cast led by Malcolm McDowell, working with a screenplay by Gore Vidal, high production values, it seemed as if this film had all the right ingredients that made a classic, or a close approximation of one, so what went wrong? Well somehow the founder of Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione, became the film’s producer. While Tinto Brass wanted to make the film as a political satire, Guccione simply wanted an extravagant, high class porno, and because the producers didn’t let Brass edit the film at all, Guccione was free to put in as much unsimulated sex scenes as he wanted, completely disregarding Brass’ original vision.

I’m no prude, but needless to say, I can understand why Roger Ebert walked out on this film. It seems to have no worth other than as an extravagant cavalcade of degeneracy, devoid of the meaning that Tinto Brass had hoped to bestow upon it. Seriously, I’ve seen some messed up stuff in films, but this film, with its lurid, feverishly graphic sex scenes that you’d now find only in the some of the more hardcore online pornography, stretches it for two-and-a-half long hours. If Guccione attended something arousing then he’s surely failed. He bastardised what could have been a truly great film for nothing.

As for the plot, it’s essentially sex-crazed retelling of the rise and fall of the infamous Roman emperor Caligula, who ascended to the throne after the death of his predecessor Tiberius. The film details some of Caligula’s eccentricities, but isn’t exactly historically accurate. It’s historically accurate to some degree, but I don’t recall Roman historical accounts of a red wall with rotating blades beneath it that chopped the heads off of anyone buried up to their necks.

I assume this is the film from which people get their assumptions of “pagan Roman debauchery”, some of them using it to say “this is why Christianity is better”. Keep in mind this was a film produced by Penthouse, a magazine that specialised in smut. Certainly that’s what Bob Guccione wanted out of Caligula, and in fact, much of the sex scenes, which are often stretched beyond belief and often seem like they interrupt the plot anytime something interesting actually happens, were filmed by him, rather than Tinto Brass. If you’re impression of Roman history comes from here then I don’t really know what to tell you.

The acting is actually quite good, but it’s Malcolm McDowell whose fine acting talents truly carry the film. In keeping with the garish, over-the-top interpretation of Imperial Rome that he is cast in, McDowell raises the level of his performance to match the gaudiness of it all. It tends to result in him overacting, but with McDowell it’s quite riveting. His charged performance really stole the show and made the film at least more tolerable to watch.

Another plus side to the film is its tremendous production values. The whole film looks extravagant and gaudy, the film is given a booming classical music score. I suppose this was part of the producers’ attempt to give the film an extraordinarily opulent atmosphere, but thanks to the frequently overstretched hardcore sex scenes and spates of gore, the film’s atmosphere has more of a grotesque opulence. Maybe that was intentional. To be honest, I’m not sure what parts of the film were Brass’ ideas or Guccione’s ideas.

On the whole, Caligula was, to put it bluntly, an overblown failure, both in its artistic merits and as a commercial product. To my mind, this was something that could have been a similar historical masterpiece to Ken Russell’s The Devils, but sadly it got into the hands of a lecherous porn producer, and what you get is a bloated, overstretched film that attempted to offer up a titillating Roman fantasy but instead leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

  • Score: 59%
  • Grade: D

Billy Jack (1971)

Now Billy Jack is a rather interesting film, certainly an object of its time in terms of production and its general attitude. Made by Tom Laughlin at the tail end of the hippie era, Billy Jack seems to have been positioned as a countercultural action film, complete with the progressive values of the hippie movement which apparently Mr. Laughlin has to repeatedly shove down our throats at various points in the film. That said it’s not a bad film, in fact I’d say it was a fairly good action film. But I think the problem is that, not only was it a bit too long, but also that it got too bogged down in its own message, even as it runs counter to said message frequently.

The eponymous Billy Jack is a half-breed Navajo Indian, who is also a former Green Beret and a veteran of the then-ongoing Vietnam War who happens to be a master of hapkido martial arts. In the film, he keeps watch of Jean Roberts’ Freedom School, a progressive art school in Southwest America for runaway kids of all races. He defends the Native American kids from the prejudicial bullying of the townspeople, and after an incident in an ice cream parlour in which some Native American kids have flour poured on them, he goes berserk and has the authorities coming after him and the school.

My main problem is that the film is about ten or fifteen minutes too long and suffers from some awkward pacing. Another problem is how ham-fisted the message tends to be. If you’re like me and you’re not a progressive, you probably won’t like the film’s progressive politics, and one thing I noticed is that the hippies in the film always argue from emotion rather than logic, quite like the so-called progressives of today. You could call it strawmanning if you like, but then the film strawmans the “conservative” characters a lot.

In this film’s world, all conservatives are evil, jack-booted bigots and all progressives are righteous hippies just want to sing and dance. Never mind the fact that the film’s message of peace and love is contradicted by the amount of violence committed by the protagonist, which only seems to prove that the only way to truly enforce justice with a gun, and in a film where the main character seems to be for gun control.

As for characters, the acting isn’t too bad, but it’s rather weak. Tom Laughlin is actually not a bad action hero in the film, and better at that than he is a writer or director, but he’s no Clint Eastwood, and he’s desperately trying to be a Clint Eastwood style anti-hero and failing. That said, even if he’s not a great actor, he’s a pretty good fighter, and at certain parts of the film, he’s very good. The rest of the cast is less tolerable though, particularly the hippies.

On the whole, Billy Jack is a dated relic of its time. Not an unwatchable one though, it looks and sounds like a decent film. But it’s main flaw is that it can’t stop getting caught up in its own politicking, and given that it was made by a progressive, this is no surprise. Just as now, they are always concerned with putting politics into everything, and regardless of the message, it doesn’t exactly lead to a good film.

  • Score: 64%
  • Grade: C

Soylent Green (1973)

Films like Soylent Green tend to be interesting due to their out-there central premises, and this film seems to be a blend of detective mystery, dystopian sci-fi, and social commentary that’s characteristically of its time, this being the time when environmentalism starting becoming fashionable. I suppose it was only natural that we would see a film that grapples with overpopulation, and the film itself is something of a product of its time. That being said, it was certainly an interesting and entertaining film.

Set in the year 2022, some fifty years into the future, the film depicts an overpopulated, polluted world where natural resources are all but exhausted, and the climate has apparently become so warm that many animals can’t survive. Most food in this world is provided by the Soylent Corporation, which creates nutritious wafers that it claims are made from plankton. The story focuses on the life of NYPD detective Frank Thorn, who along with his partner Solomon is tasked with investigating the murder of Soylent board member William R. Simonson, who was allegedly also burglarised before his death. During the investigation, Frank finds that there are powerful men, including the governor, who want to end the investigation even if they have to kill him, and he eventually stumbles upon the company’s terrible secret.

Right off the bat I felt like there was some sort of environmentalist vibe coming from the film, which I guess was pretty much in vouge at the time. I don’t really mind that though. My real criticism is that the film is a bit slowly paced for a film of about 97 minutes in length. The film seems to meander on for a while without much happening, but when we get back on the case, all seems to be well and good. It seems to be one of those films that slowly gets better as it progresses until we reach the conclusion, which I think was a solid ending, even if it was cut a bit short.

The acting is quite good, and to be fair, there wasn’t really a bad performer in the entire film, although this is another one of those films where the characters have the misfortune of being outshone by a big lead, in this case Charlton Heston. That said, Edward G. Robinson gives a good performance as Heston’s crusty old sidekick, in what is sadly his last film. I do find it disappointing that we don’t have much exposition on the characters, but I can generally tolerate it here.

Even though I criticised the film earlier for its somewhat slow pacing, I can’t help but think that perhaps the point of it was to enhance the feeling of suspense. The film’s overall style was rather subtle, yet there was no real attempt to hide the film’s gloomy outlook. There were a lot of nice-looking set pieces, but sometimes I wonder if they were really necessarily. I don’t have a problem with them, it could simply be a way of fleshing out the futuristic world of the film.

On the whole it was certainly a good film, not without its flaws but still an interesting and intelligent sci-fi from back when sci-fi was smart.

  • Score: 70%
  • Grade: C

Sorcerer (1977)

For whatever reason I found myself interested in a 40-year-old thriller called Sorcerer, which turned out to be a remake of a European 1950’s thriller called The Wages of Fear. Whatever you want to call it, the film came out at perhaps an awkward time. It was released just a month after Star Wars came out, and became an instant phenomenon, and when that happened, films like this were left twisting in the wind, and thus Sorcerer, which was produced on twice the budget of Star Wars, failed to turn a profit, and was generally dismissed by critics. That’s a bit of a shame because it’s actually quite a good film. Not as good as I might have hoped, but still a good film.

The film’s story revolves around four men, each from different parts of the world, who are invariably forced to flee from their previous lives, assuming fake identities of course. They all end up meeting each other in the remote South American village of Porvenir, where they live in abject poverty and earn meagre wages. After a local oil well explodes, the men are hired by an American oil company to transport cargoes of nitroglycerin to the oil well using two trucks. If successful, they will be handsomely, but it’s a highly dangerous job and it’s likely that they might die.

With that in mind, why is the film called “Sorcerer”? Well, apparently one of the two trucks in the film is called “Sorcerer”, which I guess is a somewhat logical if silly reason to call the film Sorcerer. The other explanation comes from the film’s director William Friedkin, who links the title to one of the themes of the film. In his words, “the sorcerer is an evil wizard, and in this case the evil wizard is fate”. That’s quite a stretch, but it’s not uncommon for directors to have pretentious ways of rationalising batty artistic decisions. Friedkin isn’t the worst in that regard.

As for the story itself, the concept is actually quite good. It’s main focus is taking people of different backgrounds who hate each other, but not as much as having to work with them, keeping in mind that if they didn’t co-operate, they would surely die. This kind of story is guaranteed to have some drama and suspense. I also like how the film’s prologue shows you how the main characters got from where they were to where they are now.

That being said, my main issue is with the film’s rather slow pacing. Parts of the film end up being rather boring, but certainly not at the very end, and it does have some surprisingly explosive moments to keep you on your toes. The acting is very good, thanks to the casting of skilled actors such as Roy Scheider. With this film you can really get a sense of their emotions, and while no character is completely likeable, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that that’s pretty much the point. The film certainly succeeds in terms of its pessimistic atmosphere and its style. The film boasts a crisp look and sound, and benefits from skilful editing and tastefully professional shooting. Another highlight would be the film’s musical score, which comes courtesy of Tangerine Dream.

On the whole it was certainly an ambitious film, and quite a good one. In fact, William Friedkin wanted this film to be his legacy, but in a way he sort of had it, given that the film now enjoys cult film status. Ultimately the film’s chances of success were hindered mainly by the fact that it was 1977. If you didn’t go to see Star Wars, you went to see Smokey and the Bandit. Both were huge films that effectively murdered Friedkin’s Sorcerer in the box office, and there’s something symbolic about that. Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit symbolised the newly emerging blockbuster era, while Sorcerer was emblematic of the New Hollywood style of film-making. After 1977, the New Hollywood era would decline until its eventual demise in 1980, and the art of cinema would be the poorer for it. In a way, Sorcerer was the sacrifice on the altar of blockbuster cinema. Or perhaps I read into this sort of thing too much.

  • Score: 74%
  • Grade: C