classified 15

The Sound of Suspense


Please note: This was screened in March 2018

William Friedkin
Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal
121 mins, 1978, USA

It is one of the most gruellingly intense, stripped down, weirdly mean spirited, absolutely edge of your seat, nihilistic thrillers that American cinema has made in the past half century.

– Mark Kermode, Observer Film Critic.

William Friedkin’s breathtakingly visceral thriller, in which four desperate men drive nitro-glycerine through an inhospitable jungle, is a supremely tense study in psychological breakdown and contains a soundtrack by German electronic outfit Tangerine Dream that has the ability to ratchet-up the suspense with every turn of its synthesized screw.

In a small South American town, four men on the run from the law are offered $10,000 and legal citizenship in exchange for transporting a shipment of dangerously unstable nitro-glycerine to an oil well some 200 miles away. Led by Jackie Scanlon (Roy Scheider), the men set off on their hazardous journey, during which they must contend with dangerously rocky roads, unstable bridges, and attacks from local guerrillas as they fight for their lives in a desperate struggle to complete their dangerous quest.

Director William Friedkin has said that had he known at the time about Tangerine Dream he would have used the group to score his earlier film The Exorcist. And it’s easy to see why based on their extraordinary work here. Their elusive, uncanny soundscape really does seem to be happening someplace not of this world.

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