If your weirdo cinephile friend is all in a tizzy today, there’s a reason: Sorcerer, the much-maligned, long-neglected, yet freshly re-appreciated Wages of Fear remake from director William Friedkin, is making its Blu-ray debut today (and finally getting a proper anamorphic DVD release as well). When the film was originally released back in 1977, it was a highly anticipated, big-budget effort from Friedkin, the Oscar-winning director of The Exorcist and The French Connection. Unfortunately, its arrival in the moviegoing marketplace was preceded, by about a month, by a little movie called Star Wars, and that picture pretty much lay waste to everything in its path. It’s not a new story — filmmaking careers are made of highs and lows, and even the finest directors have seen falls that were difficult, or even impossible, to bounce back from.
At Long Last Love (Peter Bogdanovich, 1975)
Film critic-turned-filmmaker Bogdanovich had built a career on nostalgia, propelling himself to the top of his New Hollywood class in the early 1970s with three pictures (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and What’s Up Doc) that played in the genre trappings of Hollywood’s golden age, while taking advantage of contemporary freedom to tackle adult subject matter. At Long Last Love seemed right in his wheelhouse, as he tried his hand at an elegant musical/comedy, constructing a period tale and securing 18 Cole Porter songs.
And then the problems started. Bogdanovich insisted on shooting the musical numbers live, which hadn’t been done since the early days of the talkies — itself an interesting challenge, but made more difficult by his decision to cast, in the film’s leading roles, Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepard, neither of whom were exactly musical theatre types. And large swaths of the audience were predisposed to skepticism; Shepard was Bodganovich’s live-in lover at the time, their relationship breaking up his marriage to longtime collaborator Polly Platt, and by the time the film hit theaters, the duo was reaching Bennifer-level saturation in print and television. (More on Bennifer later.) Finally, the filmmaker would later explain, the film was rushed into release before he’d had time to properly preview and tinker with the final product. Years later, television and Netflix audiences would discover the much-maligned picture — which had since been recut into a stronger version that more closely resembled Bogdanovich’s original script — and it was finally released on Blu-ray last year.