Sunday, August 16, 2009

Long Haul


I was happy to see Stephen King name William Friedkin's Sorcerer starring Roy Scheider as number one on his list of movies "that never disappoint", (Entertainment Weekly). I love this movie and agree with him that it bests the original - Wages of Fear - directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, based on the novel of the same name by Georges Amaud. It follows a group of desperate men hiding out in a small South American village from various sources of trouble around the world. They've all ended up in the last place on earth they want to be and the last place of refuge existing for them and hang around waiting to die... until... there's a disaster for the big oil company drilling nearby. The pipeline is burst and on fire and because of the remoteness of the location, the best plan they can come up with is to send two rickety old trucks, (two because at least one of them is bound to perish)loaded with decaying dynamite, oozing nitroglycerin through the jungle to put out the blaze. The volunteers for the suicide mission come out of the woodwork because the reward for succeeding and surviving is a lot of money. Tryouts are held and four men selected to captain the two trucks at walking pace over harsh and antagonistic terrain. The tension is near unbearable and the volume is low as we get the feeling that even loud words could ignite the volatile payload. Hard to say why I never come across love for this film in print. Possible reasons I come up with are that: 1) It is a Hollywood remake of a foreign film and it's unheard of or at least uncool to think the latter version is better. 2)It was a financial disappointment, the first film Friedkin put out after The Exorcist and they poured tons of money into it. 3) It's the guy who made a huge hit out of a demonic possession movie and it's called SORCERER right? Why then is there zero supernatural element to the picture? Confusing possibly, I'll give em that, but audiences have had thirty years to rediscover this picture and it's just not happened, (not even in Scheider retrospectives after he passed away last year). Reading King's piece reminded me of another great truck-driving movie - Jules Dassin's Thieves Highway where a couple of desperate truckers with a precious early load of produce race to San Francisco to sell it at a market presided over by an early and not quite as ruthless, (or likeable) version of Deadwood's Al Swearengen named Mike Figlia, (Lee J. Cobb). Both films take aim at capitalism run amok and those left maimed in its wake and both feature fantastic and riveting sequences of people driving trucks, (no easy feat) and both are worth your trip to the video store or Netflix (and I hate to admit that I am now on there too). Netflix has already failed me too. After watching the feature of Thieves Highway, the Criterion edition had an excerpt from a doc about the scribe A.I. Bezzerides, who wrote both script and novel, featuring interviews with Barry Gifford, George Pelecanos, Mickey Spillane and Jules Dassin. Netflix don't have it. It's called The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides and I want to see it. Anybody out there with a tip, lemme know.

5 comments:

Cullen Gallagher said...

There's also Plunder Road with Elisha Cook, another truck driving heist movie. Quite good.

jedidiah ayres said...

Thanks for the rec, Cullen, but now I have to post another Netflix failure. Plunder Road is not available. Dunno if its not in print or just not available. Dammit.

Kent said...

Damn good movie. A white-knuckler for sure.

As for that documentary, it was on the single disc Criterion edition. And it's decent, worth watching at any rate. Not sure why it wouldn't have been on the Netflix copy. Maybe some weird copyright thing or something?

Kieran Shea said...

i just rewatched this film this morning. it's just so bleak it's awesome. the ending is the best. hitchcockian assemblage of Roy Scheider's fate beneath the omnipotent voyeur's eye as the hit team enters the bar. uncheapened by sound, just that tangerine dream soundtrack. are we sure de palma and friedkin were not sliced from the same womb?

Paul Brazill said...

Didn't Luc Besson do a trucker/crime fim?