May 31, 2012

10 Phenomenally Overrated Movies

SCARFACE - If I want to spend three hours with a sociopathic irredeemable asshole, I’d hang around my ex-brother-in-law more often. With its awful music score and silly montages, this movie practically stinks of the 80s. Yet it’s more popular now than ever, mostly by dumbass thugs who perceive themselves as badasses, but have never watched a real gangster movie.

AVATAR - Take away the admittedly-great 3-D, and you’re left with a three hour retelling of Pocahontas. This movie also confirms that director James Cameron, despite pushing the technological envelope, doesn’t have a single original idea of his own.

BLADE RUNNER - Probably blasphemy to sci-fi fans, but guys, I’ve tried really, really hard to like this movie over the years (yes, including the director’s cut) but just can’t honest say I care about it. And don’t try to tell me I didn’t ‘get it’. Dekker’s a replicant, I get it. It’s still long, slow and boring.

HEAVY METAL / PINK FLOYD THE WALL - If you were in high school when either of these came out, you probably thought they were totally awesome. You were also probably totally high. Watch them now, without so much as a beer in your hand.

APOCALYPSE NOW - Some of the iconic scenes in this movie are stunning, almost hypnotic at times. Then Brando shows up during the last half hour with his massive gut, mealy mouth and verbal vomit. And where the hell is the ending?

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION - I could probably list any Vacation movie here. Everyone I know loves them, especially this one, but I’ve never found them to be funny at all (I’m also subjected to Christmas Vacation at family get-togethers during the holidays every year). Too bad, because the original stories published in the original National Lampoon are nasty, politically incorrect and absolutely hilarious.

HALLOWEEN - This movie established director John Carpenter as a creative force to be reckoned with, perhaps because it was the first of an endless line of hack-and-slash horror films that followed. And there’s a lot to like here...the music score is perfect, and what lurks in the shadows creates a ton of suspense. But the dialogue is shitty, the characters behave stupidly and the actors look ten years older than the teenagers they supposed to depict. And who the fuck goes trick-or-treating when the sun's still up???

THE SHINING - I love Stanley Kubrick. He made one of my favorite movies ever (Dr. Strangelove). But he was totally the wrong guy for the job. It takes a conscious effort from a tremendous talent to take the scariest book I ever read, slow the pace down to a crawl, then use Jack Nicholson and a Steadicam to dupe virtually every critic in the world into thinking this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

FORREST GUMP - I like this movie...a lot. But the Best Picture of 1994? The same year as The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction and Quiz Show? Puh-lease.

JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING DIRECTED BY TIM BURTON - I'm probably the only person on the planet who thinks Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was Burton's greatest film, made long before he became the darling of Emos worldwide. What's actually kind of ironic is that, most of those Burton-worshiping Emos often cite The Nightmare Before Christmas as their favorite Burton film, even though he didn't actually direct it.

May 30, 2012

THE CASSANDRA CROSSING and the Sinister Urge

Starring Richard Harris, Sophia Loren, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardener, Martin Sheen, O.J. Simpson, Lee Strasberg. Directed by George Pan Cosmatos. (1976, 129 min)
            There reaches a point in every young boy's life when he goes through physical and emotional changes; he has reached the apex of childhood and begins the slow, sometimes awkward transition from into becoming a man. These are formative years; what happens during this time plays a large role in shaping the type of adult he will eventually become. No, I'm not talking about puberty and all the embarrassing baggage that entails. What I am talking about usually occurs around the same time, though, when a young man wakes up one summer morning with the compelling urge to blow shit up.
            Unlike puberty, this fiery rite of passage is a communal experience, usually including friends of a similar age who are just as bored as you are (or at least have a stash or firecrackers or M-80s). Also unlike puberty, when you suddenly notice how wonderful breasts are but have no idea what to do with them, the average kid knows exactly what to do when the urge to blow shit up finally comes, which is to find some shit to blow up.
            Some parents reading this may assume such urges are an indication of potentially psychotic behavior. Let me reassure you...just about every boy with easy access to fireworks has engaged in such destructive activity at least once. They can't help it; it is ingrained in the male psyche. To assume otherwise is living in denial. If you truly think your son has never blown shit up for the sake of blowing shit up, it's because he didn't run home to tell you that he just blew shit up, just like he never emerged from the bathroom and said, "Hey, Mom, I just masturbated!"
            Unless you birthed a maladjusted freak who gets his kicks by sticking a firecracker up a cat's ass, the time-honored act of blowing shit up is simply a normal part of the transition to adulthood.
            The most obvious targets of these urges are the toys they have outgrown...G.I. Joes, Hot Wheels, train sets, action figures. It happened to me around the age of 13 or 14. One day, after taking a long hard look at the hundreds of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars I'd spent the better part of my first decade of life collecting but no longer played with, I came to the decision that their retirement would be best-realized by going out in a blaze of glory. And I knew just the guy to help friend, Karl. I may have had the objects for destruction, but he had the artillery, courtesy of his older brother, who often drove up north to an Indian reservation in Washington to get real fireworks, not the glorified sparklers available in Oregon. Hence, Karl's garage was almost always stocked with packages of firecrackers, Roman candles, cherry bombs and M-80s.
            So, one hot summer morning in July, me and Karl trucked off to a remote area with my two cases of race cars and his grocery sack of explosives. Over the course of the next two hours, we blew up every single car to tiny metal bits, and when we were done, I was exhausted-yet-satisfied. I'd sated an urge that had been welling within me for a long time.
            I would even suggest this was an educational experience, though the lesson didn't really sink in for another twenty years, when my wife dragged me along on another one of her antiquing excursions. Displayed behind within a glass display case in one particular store were dozens and dozens of Hot Wheels just like the ones I blew up as a kid, only now priced at $20-100 each.
            What did I learn? Fucking remorse, that's what!
            A word to the wise, especially to those of you young enough to feel the same destructive urges that I not blow up your own toys. Blow up your buddy's Star Wars action figures or your sister's Barbies. Ignore your instincts, take your old toys and stash them in the attic. Twenty years down the road, you can laugh your ass off when some nostalgic boob offers you a hundred times what you paid for them with your allowance money.
            If you're my age, currently beating yourself for trying to launch your G.I. Joe into space with a bottle rocket, don't be too hard on yourself. You were only acting as nature intended. You're normal.
            What's abnormal are the kids who do not outgrow the urge to destroy. Back in the days before CGI took the fun out of special effects, these folks either ended up doing time, or took their love of blowing shit up seriously enough to make a living at it, such as those who created the visual effects for most of the disaster movies in the 70s.
            Today, anyone with computer smarts can simulate a catastrophic train wreck just by firing-up a laptop. Back in 1976, if you were lucky, you could work for a studio that would pay you to blow shit up the same way you once did with Hot Wheels.
            Which brings us to The Cassandra Crossing, a fairly minor entry in the 70s disaster sweepstakes, but one which appeals to the inherent destructive nature in most boys.
            The movie itself is actually pretty good, once you get past the terrible dialogue, unbelievably stupid subplots (Martin Sheen has more WTF moments than every other character combined) and the god-awful music score. There's a potentially lethal plague onboard a European commuter train, and only a small handful are immune. That doesn't stop the American government (of course) from trying to deliberately crash the train in order to keep the virus at bay. Their plan is to guide the plague-infested train to toward the Cassandra Crossing, the rickety old bridge practically guaranteed to collapse if so-much as a moth lands on it.
            There isn't a whole lot of action until the train reaches the Cassandra Crossing. But because this is a disaster movie, and because there's been no gloriously destructive payoff thus far, it's a given that the bridge will collapse and the train will meet its end in a fiery crash.
            Here is why The Cassandra Crossing is really awesome: Even back in 1976, it was obvious we were watching a bunch of guys blowing up models. The special effects aren't even the least bit convincing, yet the climactic scene is a lot of fun. We know the collapsing bridge is a model, we know the train is a model, but it's awesome for the same reason we loved destroying our old toys. We look at the climax of The Cassandra Crossing and think, "You know, I should have done that with my old Lionel Train set."
            I think whoever was in charge of that scene really got-off on blowing shit up as a kid. That's what ultimately makes The Cassandra Crossing so cool...not its realism, but its obvious use of miniatures and models that get blown up in the process. Those of us who grew up in the 70s can appreciate the effort involved, just like earlier generations can still marvel at Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion effects from the 50s and 60s. Sometimes, we kind-of like knowing how things in movies are accomplished, especially if we are able to figure it out for ourselves.

May 16, 2012

ROLLERBALL (1975): The Greatest Game Never Played

Starring James Caan, John Houseman, Maude Adams, Moses Gunn, John Beck. Directed by Norman Jewison. (1975, 129 min)

Until 1968's Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey, science fiction was seldom too serious...alien invaders, time travel, giant monsters, space battles, etc. A lot of those movies made the future look awesome; we cursed our bad luck for being born before flying cars, laser guns, space colonies and giant robots. Mindless fun, and mostly kiddie stuff (some of which I still love).

Then the 70s arrived, along with The Andromeda Strain, Colossus: The Forbin Project, The Omega Man, Westworld, Soylent Green, Logan's Run, Silent Running, A Boy and his Dog, A Clockwork Orange, THX-1138, et al. These mostly-dystopian movies promised us that, not only will the future suck, it's gonna kick our asses. Many directors of these films claimed to use sci-fi as a commentary on the ills of modern-day society. If so, I seldom understood any message they were trying to convey. In some cases, I still don’t. Even now, I’d love to visit Westworld, drill robot hookers and blow away Yul Brynner. And yeah, I’d take the chance on one of them suddenly turning homicidal.

Another of those dystopian nightmares was 1975’s Rollerball, Norman Jewison’s supposed commentary on society’s bloodlust, which depicts a future society controlled by corporations. Nations, war and poverty no longer exist, but the population still has a craving for death, which the world’s corporations provide with Rollerball, an unholy cross between roller derby, football, motorcycle racing and gladiatorial combat.

I’ve seen and read interviews where Jewison (in full-pretention mode) intended the audience to be appalled by the violence in Rollerball. Well, Mr. Jewison, mission failed, because you made the game so kick-ass that we all wished it was a real fucking sport (it makes the NFL look like cheerleading competitions). Hell, even the stunt guys you employed played the game in their free time between takes. If you had any other agenda, Mr. Jewison, it was lost on most folks, at least on me and my friends when we decided to try playing Rollerball ourselves in the summer of ‘76 (a year after the movie was released in theaters, but recently premiered on TV for all of us to behold).

Granted, we didn’t have motorcycles, roller-skates, spiked gloves or a speeding steel ball that could tear your head off, but we did have bicycles, skateboards, gardening gloves, old baseball helmets, a softball wrapped in silver duct tape and two trash cans placed on opposite ends of our cul-de-sac to serve as goals. We were all set.

But unlike the climactic match in the film with no time limit, our own little game lasted about five minutes. That’s when my friend Mark, riding a skateboard, collided with another kid on his bike and smacked face-first onto the street. He broke his nose, two teeth and scraped a good chunk of skin off his cheek. After that, no one seemed too enthused to continue the game, especially after seeing all that blood squirting from Mark’s face.

Looking back on that incident now, maybe it was my first hard-learned lesson (though not as hard on me as it was on Mark) not to imitate what you see in the movies. But even though re-enacting Rollerball was basically my idea, I'm still gonna blame Norman Jewison for Mark's busted nose. Screw the man’s social commentary; he made the sport look like too much goddamned fun for a bunch of bored 13-year-olds to pass up.

There are more reasons why Rollerball’s violence-is-bad message falls on deaf ears...

As brilliantly conceived and shot as the game scenes are, an actual plot is required for most movies, and the plot in this one is flimsy and stupid. Rollerball-champion Jonathon E (James Caan) is a threat to the corporations because his skill defeats the purpose of the game (demonstrating the futility of individual effort). So they keep changing the rules of the game in order to eliminate him. It is never made clear why Jonathon’s continued ass-kicking is a threat, but even if it was, it seems to me that if corporations are able to keep the global population in-check, simply killing one guy shouldn’t be too tough. The last time I checked, one of the few times in history killing just one guy ever had global impact was during World War II, and that was a good thing.

Furthermore, if Rollerball truly does sate the population’s bloodlust, yet it’s obvious everyone loves Jonathon E, doesn’t killing him lessen one’s interest in the game? Wouldn’t you want him to keep kicking-ass, especially since he is such a nice guy off the track? Consider the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. I’m not a basketball fan, but even I sometimes tuned into games when he was playing. We loved the guy even when he was kicking the shit out of our own home team. When he decided to finally retire, there was a noticeable dip in TV ratings for NBA games. As a society, we love seeing one man totally dominate a sport, to the point where his absence makes the sport a bit less compelling. Disagree? Then when was the last time you watched a golf tournament in its entirety when Tiger Woods wasn’t playing?

In Rollerball, by trying to kill Jonathan, these corporations aren’t really doing a lot to help their cause. In fact, with every increasingly deadly rule change designed to eliminate him, the sport becomes even more popular when he overcomes the odds and wins anyway. And besides, doesn’t Jonathan’s triumph accomplish the very goals the corporations had in the first place, to placate the passive public’s bloodlust?

But I’m being way too analytical, because I’ve never met anyone who has seen Rollerball that gives two shits about the story anyway. In fact, the chapter-skip feature on your remote was made for movies like this. In-between the most awesome sports-action sequences you’ll ever see are endless scenes of dull exposition, cheesy parties, occasionally nonsensical dialogue or random shots intended to be symbolic. With your remote, it’s possible to enjoy this two-hour film in about thirty minutes, catching all of the stupendous action and still have an inkling of the plot (if you care). We get the gist of the story whenever Jonathan scores a goal or does something awesomely violent; the movie cuts to John Houseman (the evil corporate executive trying to kill him), a stern expression on his jowly puss.

Still, the very idea of Rollerball is great (and I do love this film). So even though its anti-violence message is an epic fail, out of sheer respect, I’ll mention at least one valuable life-lesson this dystopian classic does offer with utmost clarity (besides never try to play the game in your cul-de-sac with your friends):

Polyester is not, and will never be, attractive. Especially beige polyester.

May 13, 2012

19 Things We Learn While Watching THE BLACK HOLE

Starring Maximillian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall, Slim Pickens. Directed by Gary Nelson. (1979, 98 min)

1. Black Holes are not actually black, nor are they invisible. They look more like massive flushing toilets hovering in space. And the further inside you go, the brighter they become.

2. Some robots have southern accents.

3. There may be some Rush fans in the Disney camp. Reinhardt’s ship is called the Cygnus. Two years prior to the film, Rush recorded a song called “Cygnus X-1,” which tells the story of a ship venturing into - that’s right - a black hole.

4. Good robots go to Heaven. Bad robots go to Hell.
5. No matter what the role, Anthony Perkins is always Norman Bates.

6. Maximillian, the evil robot, is a total badass, mostly because he doesn’t talk. No one else in the film ever shuts up.

7. In the future, even though humankind has mastered interstellar space travel, they still can’t design a soldier robot that can aim worth a shit. These guys make Imperial Stormtroopers look like Hawkeye from The Avengers.

8. Joseph Bottoms is no Harrison Ford. But we already knew that.

9. Don’t worry about that massive hull breach trying to suck you out into space. Just hang on to something. You’ll be okay.

10. And even if you do get sucked into space, you’ll be okay without suffocating or freezing to death, as long as your robot buddy rescues you within a few minutes.

11. Hoping to capitalize on the millions George Lucas made in licensing the Star Wars name to toy companies, Disney did the same for The Black Hole, which included sets of action figures. It is with more than a little irony that action figures would be created to tie-in with a movie that has almost no action.

12. On the other hand, who wouldn’t want their own tiny Ernest Borgnine doll?

13. This film must have inspired future designers at General Motors, because the front of the new Chevy Camero looks a lot like the robot, Maximillian (meaning it’s totally badass).

14. If things don’t go their way, some robots will throw such a hissy fit that they’ll short circuit and shut down (sort of like my computer).

15. No need to worry if a massive flaming meteor crashes through your ship and rolls after you like Hell’s bowling ball. Just gawk at it for a few seconds before running away really, really fast.

16. Large spacecraft of the future will include a rail system for convenient transport within the ship, and will suddenly turn into the mother of all rollercoasters when things go bad.

17. Although this was Disney’s first real attempt to move away from cartoons and kiddie comedies, The Black Hole has more laughs than Freaky Friday, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Shaggy Dog, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Superdad and Pete’s Dragon combined.

18. On the other hand, The Black Hole is the only major studio film I can think of that kills-off every single character. No sequel here, folks.

19. After Star Wars, kids could be duped into seeing anything.

May 7, 2012

THE CAR: The 70s' Ultimate WTF Film

Starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong, Kim Richards (young child star all us sixth grade boys had the hots for). Directed by Elliot Silverstein, (1977, 96 min)

The concept of The Car, where an automobile from Hell arrives to turn the good and not-so-good folks of a small desert town into road pizza, is proof positive that Robert Evans wasn’t the only studio executive from the 70s doing too much cocaine. Crossing Duel with The Exorcist is an idea that could only be dreamed up by someone who’d just snorted half of Peru. How else can you explain why stuff like this got green-lighted, while Orson Welles was slumming as a wine spokeman on TV?

On the other hand, while Citizen Kane may be one of the greatest films ever made, nobody gets run over by a souped-up, demon-possessed automobile, which is a lot more fun to a 13-year-old (when I caught The Car at the Cinema V, the trusty old second-run theater near my house) than watching a reporter try to figure out who Rosebud is.

The Car is a terminally weird movie, even for the 70s. Maybe even the 60s. Given the deadly serious tone and numerous scenes where nothing is happening at all, one gets the feeling that the producers are actually trying to achieve something as dark and existential as The Exorcist, even though the audience is paying to watch people die.

Weirder still is the character of Amos, a despicable lout who regularly beats his wife. The audience understandably expects this guy exists in the movie just so the car can come along later and pop his body like a tick under its radials, giving us a rousing 'you got what you deserve!' moment. But no, Amos ends up not only surviving, but being one of the movie's fucking heroes (even though we're given no indication he plans to stop beating his wife).

Weirdest of all is Anton LaVey, leader of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible, who's listed as a technical advisor for the film. Really? Technical advisor? Being that the concept of Satan presented in The Car is something that a 13-year-old Grand Theft Auto addict might conjure up, I can't imagine what a card-carrying Satanist could possibly have contributed. I dunno, maybe he argued the devil would drive a badass black behemoth, not some rusty old Pinto.

Or maybe LaVey argued that the devil hates delirious school teachers who taunt him from the safety of a graveyard (sacred ground, where Satan is apparently prohibited from parking...I guess he'd need one of those handicapped permits or something).

This is why pedestrians should use the crosswalk.
Or maybe LaVey was simply handy with a wrench and could fix any mechanical problems during filming. Still, none of those reasons explains why a major studio (Universal) would think including a real-life Satanist in their film's credits would boost the box office

The car itself, created by famous car customizer George Barris (he designed the original Batmobile), looks like a cross between a Lincoln Continental and a bathtub, and is one mean machine. It flattens folks into gooey pancakes, takes out police cars two-at-a-time by rolling over them and drives through front windows of houses to nail its prey (the aforementioned school teacher). Its horn is an unholy cross between a car alarm and Fran Drescher's voice.

The movie stars James Brolin (who would later suffer more misery at the hands of Satan in The Amityville Horror) as a small-town sheriff trying to deal with a mounting body count while keeping a straight face. I wonder, when he and spouse-Barbra Streisand are comparing careers, if he’s ever said, “Sure, Yentl is a fine film, but did you ever see my performance in The Car?” If so, her likely retort would be something like, “Yes, and that’s why you haven't been in any of my movies.”

Still, The Car is a fun film in spite of its seriousness. It’s fun to watch people meeting their demise via vehicular homicide. It's even more fun to wonder why a entity as powerful as Satan would need a car to do his bidding.

May 2, 2012

SORCERER: Do NOT See This Movie

Starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou. Directed by William Friedkin. (1977, 121 min)

You shouldn’t see Sorcerer.

This is one of those movies hardly anyone I know has ever seen, and the few who have really hated it. I can actually understand why. It's long, slow moving and has very little action until the third act. There are long stretches with little or no dialogue, and most of the first twenty minutes are presented with subtitles. The film is ugly, grimy, humorless, sometimes depressing and doesn't end happily. No handsome actors, no major stars, no quotable lines. None of the main characters are particularly likeable. And most damning of all, the title has nothing to do with the story. There isn’t a wizard, warlock or Sith Lord to be seen.

But for some reason, I love this film. I've loved it ever since I snuck in to see it at the Southgate in middle school, when it was the bottom half of a double bill. Me and my best friend chose it simply because we'd already seen everything else playing there. Greg got bored quickly, and couldn't understand why I'd want to sit through something so confusing and dull when greatest arcade game ever, Space Invaders (this was 1978) beckoned from the lobby. Greg took off to throw away what was left of his allowance; I stayed until the end, totally fascinated.

You gotta remember I was 14 at the time, and kids like me were supposed to be getting off on stuff like Star Wars, Close Encounters and Superman. While I liked all of those movies very much, Sorcerer held a special fascination for me...and apparently me alone. You know how kids sometimes get together to talk about great movies they watched, either because they were the first to see it or to confirm with their buddies how awesome it was? Whenever I brought up Sorcerer, I'd be met with blank stares and comments like, "What's that?" or "Never heard of it" or "What's a sorcerer?" (regarding that last question, I didn’t know what a sorcerer was either...but, man, what a bitchin’ title!)

I'd occasionally try to explain: "It's about these bad guys from different parts of the world who are hired to drive these old trucks 200 miles through the jungle while carrying crates of nitro-glycerin so they can put out a fire, but they gotta drive really, really slow or else they‘ll blow up!”

More blank stares. Sometimes someone would ask, “Why don’t they just fly it there?” I’d try to tell them the nitro is so unstable that the turbulence created by a helicopter makes it impossible. Another kid said, "Then they shoulda just used fresh dynamite." I wanted to punch him because I hate when people point-out massive plot holes in my favorite movies.

Aside from fielding the occasional question, “What’s turbulence?” my 14-year-old summary was enough to confirm this was a movie they’d never watch. Despite its PG rating, Sorcerer was never intended to be adolescent entertainment, and I guess the fact that I found it as cool as Star Wars must have seemed a little weird to them.

I didn’t see the movie again for another 20 years or so. It was eventually released on DVD in 1998, and I snatched it up the second I saw it on the shelf. I hadn’t seen it since I was 14 and hoped it was as good as I remembered. But if not, it would be a fun nostalgia trip. But unlike movies I loved as a kid that became stupider with age (Heavy Metal, Grizzly, Smokey and the Bandit, Halloween and almost every 'soundtrack' movie Paramount released in the 80s), I fell in love with Sorcerer all over again. It was just as suspenseful, hypnotic and exciting as I remembered it 20 years earlier. And even aesthetically, it has aged remarkably well.

I still have trouble explaining to others why I think the movie is so great. Ever since landing it into my movie collection, I pop Sorcerer into my DVD player at least once a year. On more than one occasion my wife has asked, “Why the hell do you like this movie, anyway? It's depressing.” I’d sometimes try to offer some half-assed arguments, such as the movie’s incredible cinematography, which manages to find beauty in its dingy images, or the use of that same imagery to tell the story without a lot of unnecessary dialogue, or the absolutely hypnotic music score by Tangerine Dream, which would seem more at-home in an Italian zombie flick, yet somehow fits this film perfectly (even more amazing when you realize the members of Tangerine Dream never saw a single frame of footage from Sorcerer before composing the entire score), or Roy Scheider’s amazing performance of quiet desperation (he’s truly one of the most underrated actors of all time).

But just as often, I'd just shrug, because I've never been able to convince anyone this movie is any good. Besides, in between the 20 years trying to enlighten my adolescent friends and current wife of the virtues of Sorcerer, I developed a fondness for things just left of the mainstream. One of the reasons I loved Metallica in the 80s was they were too extreme for radio or MTV at the time. I loved their early records, but once the The Black Album made them a household name, it simply wasn’t as much fun to be a Metallica fan. I was also one of the first guys I knew who got his ear pierced in the 80s, but since now that damn-near everyone pierces every conceivable extremity, I quit wearing an earring altogether.

Maybe it’s that same mindset that makes me love Sorcerer even more than I did when I first watched it at 14. It's a bleak and uncompromising film that, although intended to be a blockbuster, wasn't destined to be appreciated by too many people, regardless of age. Maybe part of me loves it because of its relative obscurity. Somehow, the fact hardly anyone's ever heard of it makes it more mine, just like back in the days when I was the only guy listening to Metallica.

I know some of you might be saying this makes Sorcerer a cult film, since today it does have a small share of admirers. But it isn’t a cult film on a level like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Even at the time those were made, their creators were well-aware of the fringe audience who’d appreciate them. Today, a lot of people who champion those films do so because proclaiming your love of Rocky Horror makes you part of the hipster crowd that isn’t really hip anymore, especially since it's one of the most profitable films ever released by 20th Century Fox.

Sorcerer, however, was supposed to be a Hollywood blockbuster, and ended up costing so much money it took two studios, Paramount and Universal, to cover the expense. Considering it was directed by William Friedkin, whose previous two films were The Exorcist and The French Connection, and based on one of the greatest French-language films of all time (1953’s The Wages of Fear) there was little doubt Sorcerer would be huge.

Instead, it bombed. Hardly anyone went to see it, especially with Star Wars cleaning up at the box office around the same time. Again, I can see why. Who wanted a long and depressing flick about four fugitives on a 20 mile-an-hour suicide mission just so they can earn $8000, when you could catch Luke Skywalker rescue a princess and defeat an empire? Hell, the only reason I actually saw Sorcerer was because it was the only movie playing at the Southgate I hadn't yet watched.

There have been lots of movies that totally tanked in theaters, only to be embraced years later, like The Wizard of Oz, The Shawshank Redemption and The Thing to name a few. But there’s been no outpouring of retro-love for Sorcerer. Again, I can see why. It isn’t what one would call a fun movie. Yet after seeing it at least 20 times, I think it’s fun, but still can’t explain why. I read somewhere that William Friedkin considers it his best film, and I share that opinion.

And I’m actually really glad Sorcerer remains an obscure, seldom-seen relic. It keeps the film fresh and fun for me. So, please, if you ever see this available on a used-DVD shelf, an on-demand service or YouTube, do me a favor and don’t watch it. I’d like to keep this one for myself.

By the way, Sorcerer gets its title from one of the two trucks used to transport the nitro, sloppily painted just under the driver’s side door and only glimpsed onscreen for a few seconds.