The Wages of Fear

(Le salaire de la peur)
France/Italy 1953. Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Cast: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Véra Clouzot, Peter van Eyck, Folco Lulli

NEW 35mm PRINT! ► Fasten your seatbelts! Gallic master of suspense Henri-Georges Clouzot (Les Diaboliques), often called the French Hitchcock, had his greatest success with this legendary 1953 thriller, which won best film honours at both Berlin and Cannes and was perhaps the most widely seen French film of the 1950s. The moody, torpid first part sets the scene: a squalid, sweltering Latin American backwater peopled by outcast expats who've come hoping to make a quick buck in the (American-controlled) petroleum industry, and are now desperately seeking a way — any way — out. The nail-biting, seat-of-the-pants second part is hang-on-for-dear-life masterful, as four foreign down-and-outers — a Corsican (Yves Montand), a Frenchman (Charles Vanel), an Italian (Folco Lulli), and a German (Peter van Eyck) — agree to drive two truckloads of volatile nitroglycerine over treacherous jungle roads to an oil well fire raging 350 miles away. The nerve-wracking roller-coaster tension is unrelenting, and justifiably famous; few films since can match The Wages of Fear for put-the-audience-through-it suspense. Its pessimistic vision of the human endeavour is amongst the darkest in French cinema; its swipes at the nasty economic imperialism of U.S. oil companies meant only heavily censored versions were originally released in North America. “It has some claim to be the greatest suspense thriller of all time” (Basil Wright). B&W, 35mm, in French with English subtitles. 148 mins.

REVIEWS

"The film's extended suspense sequences deserve a place among the great stretches of cinema."

Chicago Sun-Times | full review

"The Wages of Fear contains tension-fraught stretches of "pure cinema" that probably gave even the Master cold sweats."

Slant | full review

"You sit there waiting for the theatre to explode."

New York Times | full review