Toby Roan was 13 when he saw William Friedkin’s “Sorcerer.”
It was June 24, 1977, and he was catching a screening of the film at the Valley Twin in Raleigh. “I went opening night with my dad,” remembers Roan, who’s been a fan of Friedkin’s films since he was a kid. “It was us and I think two other people in the theater.”
Roan was blown away by what he saw – a suspenseful, sweaty actioner about four fugitives from different parts of the world (one played by “Jaws” star Roy Scheider) who take on the incredibly dangerous job of transporting highly unstable nitroglycerin across the jungles of South America. “I had never seen anything that intense before,” says Roan, who saw it again with his best friend a week later. “It just really knocked me out.”
Cut to today. Roan is now a 50-year-old family man in Raleigh. He’s been an advertising copywriter for a quarter of a century. He’s also a huge movie nerd, even writing a blog devoted to Westerns from the ’50s ( fiftieswesterns.com). Since the summer of 2012, he’s been working on another blog, this time devoted to only one film. Guess which movie it is?
The “Sorcerer” Blog ( sorcerer1977.wordpress.com) is Roan’s ongoing, online salute to the film that knocked him out as a kid. Reviews, interviews, old newspaper ads, posters from around the world – if there is anything related to the film lurking around the interwebs – Roan has featured it on his blog.
The blog was born after Roan had a conversation with Carolina Theatre senior director Jim Carl about which movies were most requested by audiences for the theater’s Retro Film Series. It turns out “Sorcerer” was one of those most-requested films.
“He had looked into it before, and (a print of the movie) was unavailable,” he recalls Carl telling him. “And it got me looking it up on the Internet, and I read about the rights issues and stuff going on with it. It just got me stoked about the movie, and I just decided to start this blog.”
The blog has attracted many fellow fans, with people from other countries sending him content. “You know, all over the world, people really, really like that film,” he says. “I figured I was the only person who gave a crap.”
He even got some love on Twitter from Friedkin himself. “It was really kind of cool that it sort of became this sort of hub for a whole bunch of people that were into this crazy thing. And, then, to find out that Friedkin had seen it and Friedkin thought it was kind of cool, that was kind of a nice thing to hear.”
Indeed, there is a lot for Roan to blog about, for “Sorcerer” is a film that had just as bumpy and obstacle-filled a journey as the men in the movie had. Although Friedkin considers “Sorcerer” his best film, it also shattered his streak as an in-demand filmmaker who won Oscars for his 1971 crime drama “The French Connection” and scaring the bejesus out of people with the 1973 horror classic “The Exorcist.”
Of course, “Sorcerer” would go on to get a cult following, with celebrity fans like Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino hailing it as a lost masterpiece. In April, it was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray (a less-than-stellar DVD version was released in 1998), which Roan had been blogging about since its announcement last summer. Roan had more good news come his way when he was informed that it will finally be screened at the Carolina Theatre on Friday, on a double bill with “The French Connection.”
But whether he sees “Sorcerer” either on the big screen or a flat-screen, Roan will always be taken back to a time when a movie punched him in his gut and made him a lifelong fan.
“I guess I’ve heard other people say it about other movies – something that felt like it was made for them,” he says. “And that one kind of had that feeling, you know. That’s just everything I wanted in a movie.”