One of the most nerve-wracking and exciting films ever made, Henri-Georges Clouzot's masterpiece won the Grand Prize at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival. An American oil company enlists four tough drifters for a high-paying s... more »uicide mission-transporting explosives across the rough terrain of Central America. Criterion is proud to present Wages of Fear in its original 148-minute version.« less
"I wanted to amend my earlier review. I reviewed the 148-minute VHS version, which I highly recommend. I strongly caution against getting the (less expensive) 131-minute VHS version. The picture quality is very poor and the subtitles are often almost unreadable, i.e. white writing against an almost white background. The full-length VHS and DVD versions are terrific, with clear, crisp picture and perfectly legible subtitles."
karl b. | Fraser Valley, BC, Canada | 06/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is difficult to overstate what a terrific blend of suspense, biting images, and nihilistic philosophy this film is. It works at several levels, the most compelling being a thoroughly existential treatment of the action adventure movie. Clouzot layers his irreverent cynicism into every aspect of the film, but it is actuated by the tight interplay of the characters. They are the kind of fugitives, hucksters, fortune seekers, down on their luckers you'd expect to find at a squalid, end of the world drilling camp. The director portrays them all in a dour, brave light as they struggle with futility and fear. The corruption, exploitation and innocence, are brought to a boil by a raging inferno and a couple of truck loads of nitroglycerine. Three hundred miles of rugged roads are all that separates these desperadoes from a ticket out of town. Clouzot rolls his audience into the drama with ingenious visual cues, cables stressed to snapping, tobacco blown from its paper. He uses no gimmicks, though, to impose an artificial sense of spectacle. Everything is shown with a taut authenticity. The film never loses its devil-me-care bravado in spite of all its tension and pathos. Clouzot intersperses little milestones of grace, in a prayer or a dance, with images of death. Alternately-- ambivalence, compassion and admiration are elicited for characters pushed beyond human boundaries and endurance. It resembles Treasure of the Sierra Madre (another excellent film), but caves in to none of its happy endings, higher ideals, saving benedictions. All here is carried out in a quiet desperation as every vestige of hope, purpose, escape are systematically sabotaged. All that is left is the moment, and survival. The scenes on the bridge, the oil pond, the road, are among the most unforgettable in cinema. The characters strive for freedom but are continually confronted with their interdependence and frailty. The director's final gesture, in the face of potential victory, provides a seal of consistency to this sinister, masterful brew. Clouzot delves into motivations, relationships, doubt. He challenges pat assumptions of life and destiny. It is a remarkable and original film, even more so in the context of the conventions imposed on Hollywood films of that era."
Well, the most suspenseful film I have ever seen
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 05/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two things often said about this film that I would like to strongly agree with: first, it begins rather slowly, and second, it really is one of, if not THE, most suspenseful films ever made. The first third of the movie moves inexplicably slowly. I can understand many of the reasons why: the attempt to define the characters, to show their interactions with one another, to depict the quiet desperation of their live to make it plausible that four men would undertake such an astonishingly dangerous job as hauling nitroglycerin over treacherous jungle and mountains dirt roads. Even granting all that, however, the start is by any standard, really, really slow. And I suspect that a couple of the one star reviews proclaiming the film a bore either gave up before getting to the good parts or never recovered from the slow start. The most suspenseful film ever made? A couple of reviewers indicated that the film has been so over hyped along these lines that it would be impossible for any film to come up to one's expectations. There are two edges to this sword. I am far more impressed that despite being hyped as the most suspenseful film ever made, I was nonetheless utterly on the edge of my seat for most of the final 100 minutes. And if some of the scenes seem somewhat familiar, it is undoubtedly because of the score of films that have plundered this film for their own tension-filled scenes. I have often thought that Yves Montand was, at his best, one of the more compelling performers of the last half of the twentieth century. He wasn't consistently successful internationally. Sometimes one or two decades would come between some of his greatest triumphs. To illustrate, I think Montand's two greatest film appearances were THE WAGES OF FEAR (1953) and JEAN DE FLORETTE/MANON OF THE SPRING (1986), only thirty-three years apart. Finally, I have to agree somewhat with a couple of reviewers who disliked the ending. Nihilism was very fashionable in the early 1950s in European cinema. The ending, which seems completely unnecessary and not organically connected with the rest of the film, reflects less any inner necessity for a downer ending than the general mood in "serious" films at the time. So, in a sense, one could argue that this movie manages to be one of the great classics of cinema despite a slow beginning and an arbitrarily negativistic ending. Where the film shines is in the utterly riveting journey through the jungle and mountains."
karl b. | 08/14/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Wages of Fear" is one of the greatest films I'veever seen and vastly superior to William Freidkin's '70s remake as"Scorcerer." Prefect direction by Henri-Georges Clouzot, stunning b/w photography by Armand Thirard, and a great performance by Charles Vanel as "Jo:" "You're being paid to drive, I'm being paid to worry." Don't listen to those who say the first half of the film is boring, it's not if you enjoy solid character development. And Jo, while indeed a "whiner," is the film's most memorable character because he is so real. You've met a version of this guy in your own life at one time or another. The ending is hardly a let down either as some have stated... it's what life is all about."
One of the greatest thrillers ever finally gets a worthy DVD
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 10/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We can thank the Movie Gods that Jean Gabin didn't want to play a coward or else we'd never have had Charles Vanel's superb performance in Clouzot's The Wages of Fear: it's notable that Friedkin's intriguingly feverish but suspense-free remake didn't even attempt to give its equivalent deadbeat killer a similar arc, despite the fact that the character and his curious shifting relationship with Yves Montand cuts to the very core of the story's take on the nature of courage, bravado and machismo. At the beginning of the film Vanel is the tough guy who can walk the walk, while Montand is his puppy doggish sidekick, throwing over his best friend for his new crush until his feet of clay are revealed when the chips are down. Even in a place where, in the absence of white women the white men cling to each other, this relationship seems to go a few steps beyond mere hero-worship, but when they hit the road the power in the relationship shifts, and in the process we get to watch Yves Montand become a genuine movie star before our very eyes, which is almost as exciting as the road trip to Hell with a truckload of unstable nitro and miles of very, very bumpy roads. Almost, because I doubt there's anything to beat the film's extraordinary double-jeopardy sequence on a rotting platform on a mountain road - a scene pretty much done for real - which takes your breath away until you suddenly realize that the second truck is going to have to do the same thing in even worse conditions... I remember when I saw that at a revival house a couple of years ago I genuinely forgot to breathe during that sequence, and found myself doing the same even on DVD.
Criterion's recent 2-disc DVD is a great improvement on their previous single-disc version in terms of picture quality and extras, but sadly, the `new and improved' subtitle translation is just as politically correct as the old one, dropping most of the obscenities and all of the racist language that's an important part of the hatred and self-loathing that drives the characters to risk everything for a chance for a ticket out of this backwater South American hellhole (amazingly recreated in the Carmargue in France because Montand refused to film in Fascist Spain). The shoot may have been jinxed by delays, accidents and colossal budget overruns, but damn, it was worth it. "