The Sorcerer trailer Bud Smith cut played in front of Star Wars at the Chinese Theatre. Says Smith, “When our trailer faded to black, the curtains closed and opened again, and they kept opening and opening, and you started feeling this huge thing coming over your shoulder overwhelming you, and heard this noise, and you went right off into space. It made our film look like this little, amateurish piece of shit. I told Billy, ‘We’re fucking being blown off the screen. You’ve got to see this.’”
Friedkin went with his new wife, French actress Jeanne Moreau. Afterward, he fell into conversation with the manager of the theatre. Nodding his head toward the river of humanity cascading through the theater’s doors, the man said, “This film’s doing amazing business.” “Yeah, and my film’s going in in a week,” replied Billy nervously.
“Well, if it doesn’t work, this one’ll go back in again.”
“Jesus!” Friedkin looked like he had been punched in the stomach. He turned to Moreau, said, “I dunno, little sweet robots and stuff, maybe we’re on the wrong horse.” A week later, Sorcerer did follow Star Wars into the Chinese. Dark and relentless, especially compared to Lucas’s upbeat space opera, it played to an empty house, and was unceremoniously pulled to make room for the return of C3P0 et al.
I love Sorcerer. It's flawed, and is troubled by a less than stellar ending (and a great, but horrendous title), but it's still a masterpiece the likes of which aren't made any longer. A rough gem from a bygone era of film making.