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Wages of Fear

The Wages of Fear

4.7 10
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot,

Cast: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter Van Eyck


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Together with Diabolique, The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la Peur) earned Henri-Georges Clouzot the reputation as a "French Hitchcock." In truth, Clouzot's ability to sustain suspense may have even exceeded Hitchcock's; when originally released, Wages ran 155 tension-filled minutes. Based on the much-imitated novel by Georges Arnaud, the


Together with Diabolique, The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la Peur) earned Henri-Georges Clouzot the reputation as a "French Hitchcock." In truth, Clouzot's ability to sustain suspense may have even exceeded Hitchcock's; when originally released, Wages ran 155 tension-filled minutes. Based on the much-imitated novel by Georges Arnaud, the film is set in Central America. The Southern Oil Company, which pretty much rules the roost in the impoverished village of Las Piedras, sends out a call for long-distance truck drivers. Southern Oil's wages of 2,000 dollars per man are, literally, to die for -- the drivers are obliged to transport highly volatile nitroglycerine shipments across some of the most treacherous terrain on earth. Through expository dialogue, tense interactions and flashbacks, we become intimately acquainted with the four drivers who sign up for this death-defying mission: Corsican Yves Montand, Italian Folco Lulli, German Peter Van Eyck, and Frenchman Charles Vanel. The first half of the film slowly, methodically introduces the characters and their motivations. The second half -- the drive itself -- is a relentless, goosebump-inducing assault on the audience's senses. The winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival, The Wages of Fear was remade by William Friedkin as Sorcerer (1977).

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyre
The ultimate road movie from hell, 1953's The Wages of Fear is a masterpiece of suspense with a brutal worldview. Trapped in a small, underdeveloped town in Central America, a group of European and American expatriates struggle to earn enough money to return home. When a raging fire erupts in an oilfield 300 miles away, the area's sole employer, the Southern Oil Company, devises a plan to contain the inferno that involves transporting two tons of nitroglycerine by truck over jagged terrain to the scene of the accident. The four men they hire for this extremely perilous mission -- a superb ensemble of Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Falco Lulli, and Peter Van Eyck -- are clearly in it for the money, and the company views them as expendable. Unlike most films using similar setups, though, director Henri-Georges Clouzot's isn't eager to turn his grimy quartet into heroes. Nor, though, is he interested in depicting the American oil company as anything but morally repugnant. This does nothing to detract from his brilliant control of the bleak odyssey that comprises the film's second half -- a study in suspense building that brings inevitable comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock's work. Shot to emphasize a sense of claustrophobic ennui and perfectly edited, this nail-biting drama delivers a poignant and pessimistic climax that leaves one feeling wrung, and thoroughly awed.
All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
Le Salaire de la Peur is among the most suspenseful films of the 1950s, notable for slowly building character development and atmosphere before its dramatic climax. In its original 148-minute version, the story lags in spots as director Henri-Georges Clouzot indulges some anti-United States propaganda. Not surprisingly, the film was re-edited for release in the U.S., and many critics preferred the faster pacing and more focused narrative. International acclaim came quickly, including the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. Yves Montand gives one of his best performances, though current-day audiences may find his character's chauvinism and condescension toward women unappealing. The female lead is strikingly played by Véra Clouzot, the director's wife. She had only a brief film career but appeared in two classics, this film and Les Diaboliques, which was also directed by her husband.

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Special Features

Restored high definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; Video interviews with assistant director Michel Romanoff and Clouzot biographer Marc Godin; Video interview with Yves Montand from 1988; Henri-Georges Clouzot: The Enlightened Tyrant, a 2004 documentary on the director's career; Censored, an analysis of cuts made to the film for its 1955 U.S. release; Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by novelist Dennis Lehane

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Yves Montand Mario
Charles Vanel Jo
Peter Van Eyck Bimba
William Tubbs Bill O'Brien
Véra Clouzot Linda
Folco Lulli Luigi
Dario Moreno Hernandez
Antonio Centa Camp Chief
Jo Dest Smerloff

Technical Credits
Henri-Georges Clouzot Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Georges Auric Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Jerome Geronimi Screenwriter
Madeleine Gug Editor
Etiennette Muse Editor
Louis Nee Cinematographer
René Renoux Production Designer
Henri Rust Editor
William Robert Sivel Sound/Sound Designer
Armand Thirard Cinematographer
Louis Wipf Producer

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4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Cinemaniac More than 1 year ago
VINTAGE "THE WAGES OF FEAR" STILL THRILLS IN BLU-RAY Criterion's restored hi-def transfer of Henri-Georges Clouzot's controversial, visceral and prescient thriller still grabs the viewer by the throat for a breathless, nihilistic ride. This iconic film of suspense and despair was deemed "evil" by Time magazine during its 1955 US release. Based on the harrowing 1950 book by George Arnaud, it's a cautionary tale of the true blood toll of oil and greed. Filmed in 1951 and first shown in France in 1952, "The Wages of fear" (Le Salaire de la peur) is about four European men at the end of their ropes in a hell-hole of a South American village who accept a job from an American oil company to drive two trucks of unstable nitroglycerine along a treacherous mountain route to an oil fire. Clouzot, who made less than a dozen films including the acclaimed "Les Diaboliques" and "Quai des orfevres" never flinches from his vision. Although the first half seems a bit unfocused and meandering as we get to know our characters, the squalid S.A. setting and the uncaring, greed-driven, business-as-usual of the American oil company, the movie literally jump starts when the four hapless men hit the road in their two trucks overloaded with nitro. We know these men. And we ride with them and their emotions. Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck and Antonio Centa are terrific as the frantic, fraught drivers. There's a lot of post WW II existential angst in this tale and that's not surprising. After all, it is French and the ideas of Camus and Sartre permeate this film as they did the decade in which it was produced. My only memory of this film was a washed out video tape copy with impossible to read subtitles and later a faded 16mm print in film school. I've watched this Blu-ray version several times now and it is stunning. It looks like a print that just came from the lab. The black and white is crisp, with a wonderful range of grays, velvety shadows to silvery shimmers. And the subtitles are always easy to read and perfectly synched to the spoken French. The rhythm and meaning of the dialogue is not lost in the subtitles. This gritty film, devoid of sentimentality, follows men who live in fear. They know death is coming and yet continue with the task at hand until the end. Although my personal philosophy is not that of the drivers, it reminded me to relish the precious moments of life and to live it fully, bravely and in the moment. This is one in the rather small handful of great films in world cinema. It has never looked better. And it asks questions that are relevant today: How desperate are we in our need for oil? And what is the final price? Highest recommendation. Superior extras include: Interviews with assistant director Michel Romanoff, Clouzot biographer Marc Godlin and Yves Montand from 1988). A great documentary on Clouzot's career "The Enlightened Tyrant." "CENSORED," a revealing look at the cuts made for the initial 1955 U.S. release. And "No Exit," an insightful booklet/essay by novelist Dennis Lehane.
Firannion More than 1 year ago
Definitive white-knuckle thriller Hyperkinetic contemporary action movies pale in comparison to 'The Wages of Fear,' and contemporary directors would do well to learn from its grueling sustained tension. I always think of it as a film noir, in spite of the fact that the last two-thirds of the narrative progress in the glaring sunlight of an unforgiving, arid landscape. The nihilistic darkness of Clouzot's vision must have been too much for audiences of the 1950s, but seems perfectly suited to our modern sensibilities. It's a movie that richly deserves to be rediscovered. Just remember to sit down to watch the DVD with an empty bladder, because once you get hooked in, you won't want to put it on 'Pause' for anything!
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SOLARWRITER More than 1 year ago
Interesting how the corporate hack who wrote the official review does not even know the difference between Central America and the South American mainland. Venezuela is NOT in Central America it is on the mainland of South America. While the film does not name the country where the F! elese do you think it is !! Of course its Venezuela ! Then there is the usual laughable expression of dismay that the American oil company should be portrayed in a negative light. So how exactly should it be portrayed as a cross between GREENPEACE and AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL...NOT !! The actual historical and still on -going record of conduct is worse than the film shows a lot of horrible things have been done in the name of oil since this classic was made.
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