The latest issue of Cinema Retro (#29) features my exclusive interview with Oscar-winning director William Friedkin in relation to the recent restoration of his 1977 epic adventure film Sorcerer. Regular readers of our magazine and web site know that we have been championing this great movie for years. It was a commercial and critical failure at the time of its release but its stature has grown over the decades and Friedkin told me he considers this his best film. That's quite a statement coming from the man who directed The French Connection and The Exorcist. In the interview, Friedkin discusses his painstaking efforts to finally get a proper video release of the film. An initial DVD release from Universal back in the 1990s was sub-par, to say the least. The print was less-than-stellar and Friedkin was annoyed by the fact that the movie was presented in the wrong aspect ratio. Through a long, convoluted process to determine who even owned the rights (it was co-financed by Paramount and Universal), Friedkin ended up having to sue both studios. The result was a clarification of ownership and Warner Home Video stepped forward to champion financing a restoration of the film. For Friedkin, this was the payoff in terms of finally having the film presented the way he envisioned it being seen. He personally oversaw the restoration and told Cinema Retro last month that he was thrilled with the result. He spoke very highly of Warner Home Video for their efforts in supporting this underrated classic.
Cut to: the recent release of both the Blu-ray and DVD editions of the restored version. It seems that, although the Blu-ray is right up to expectations (Friedkin told me that it looked as good as what he saw through the camera when the movie was being filmed), someone at Warners botched the DVD release and presented it in the wrong aspect ratio- a truly ironic occurrence, given Warner's reputation for accuracy in its high profile restorations.
In response to our inquiries about the issue, Friedkin E mailed us from New Zealand to say that he will personally supervise a new DVD release of the film during the first week of May and advise everyone when it is ready. He also suggests that consumers who bought the DVD demand a refund. In the E mail, Friedkin also addressed misconceptions that the movie was shot in a widescreen format as well as unauthorized DVD versions that were released internationally. Here is his response:
"There never was a wide screen version of Sorcerer. The film was shot in 35 mm in the standard 1.85 ratio. I know of no authorized wide-screen version. Possibly, someone bootlegged such a monstrosity, but I'm not aware of it. The Blu-ray is the ONLY authorized version of the film. Not a frame has been cut or changed in any way. The picture and sound, both made from the 35mm master, have of course utilized digital restoration, bringing out all the colors and nuances on the soundtrack.
There has never been a better version of Sorcerer than the Blu- ray. The DVD, old and ugly and constantly in release from Film Properties was never authorized by me and is terrible."
The interview with Friedkin includes his comments regarding the unauthorized re-editing of the film that took place in markets outside of America, something that frustrates him to this day.
(Cinema Retro #29 is currently shipping in the UK and Europe and will be sent out to subscribers in America other territories in May.)