Welcome to How’d They Do That?, a bi-monthly column that unpacks moments of movie magic and celebrates the technical wizards who pulled them off. This entry explains the making of the scene in William Friedkin’s ‘Sorcerer’ where two enormous trucks cross a rotting suspension bridge.
William Friedkin‘s nihilistic opus may share its name with “Sorcerer,” one of the two hulking transport trucks that propel the film’s nail-biting second half, but the film’s ultimate fate took after the second vehicle’s namesake: “Lazarus.” Despite its commercial and critical death in 1977, Sorcerer was later revived, in large part thanks to Friedkin’s efforts to ensure the film’s survival on home video. Today, many regard the film as a grueling, beautiful, and underappreciated triumph.
The film follows four criminals who have sought refuge in a remote village: Jackie Scanlon (Roy Scheider), a getaway driver marked for death; Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer), a disgraced investment banker; Kassem (Amidou), a politically-motivated terrorist, and Nilo (Francisco Rabal), an assassin.
One day, a nearby oil rig explodes, sending a turret of fire scorching into the sky. To stifle the flames, the oil company needs explosives. And the only dynamite available is rotting in a shed 218 miles away, sweating volatile nitroglycerine that could explode with the slightest jostle. The only way to transport the stuff through the hostile terrain is by truck. Incentivized by a financial reward that could pay their way home, the four men volunteer for the job.