The Wages of Fear – French Fried week

There are quite a number of French films available on instant Netflix. We will be featuring some of them this week. The Wages of Fear is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: The Wages of Fear (1953) – NR – Not rated.

“An oil company enlists four destitute drifters — Mario (Yves Montand), Luigi (Folco Lulli), Bimba (Peter Van Eyck) and Jo (Charles Vanel) — for a dangerous mission transporting volatile explosives across Central Americas treacherous terrain. Packed with nerve-racking tension that never lets up, director Henri-Georges Clouzots gritty masterpiece took home the Grand Prize at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival.”

“Yes Mr. Bradley, because those do not have any union, nor any families. And if they blow up, nobody will come around bothering me for any contribution.

“Wherever there is oil, there are Americans.”

“Put all the blame on the victims, they are done for , they cant feel it.”

“Even when they guillotine you, they dress you up first.”

Henri-Georges Clouzot made a wonderful film here. He creates quite an atmosphere of boredom amid squalor. The despair is evident in the characters but could have used a bit more atmosphere. To my mind there is only one character in the whole film that is likable (Luigi) and he is third lead.

It is funny to see a film that is such an indictment of American oil companies made more than a year before Michael Moore was even born. Of course that meant that it was subject to censorship so the important framework scenes were cut for U.S. release.

I have always wanted to see this film. I really love the American remake, Sorcerer (1977), starring Roy Scheider. It was made by William Friedkin 24 years after The Wages of Fear.

The Wages of Fear is in black and white with subtitles (for much of the film), both of which may put you off the film. For those of you that are cineastes, this is a wonderful high-definition transfer from the Criterion Collection.

While The Wages of Fear is well-filmed and ground-breaking in many respects, there are a few niggling flaws that detract from the film. The first is that many of the driving scenes feature that projected background so prevalent until the 70s. This does hurt the suspension of disbelief somewhat. The other is that the female lead is far too attractive for the setting. It is very jarring to see her amid the squalor.

If you watch one of these films then I recommend getting the Sorcerer DVD (even though it is an ugly full frame transfer). William Friedkin fixes a number of the issues plaguing The Wages of Fear. The atmosphere of Sorcerer is dread and squalor where for The Wages of Fear, it is boredom and squalor. Sorcerer uses real jungle locations where The Wages of Fear is filmed not always convincingly in France. The somewhat whimsical ending of The Wages of Fear is transformed into something more subtle for Sorcerer.

Just a note: Bendaho does not really translate as louse. Some of the other words have interesting translations as well.

If you have not seen Sorcerer then I highly recommend this tense film. It is a classic piece of cinema for its time and though it was later surpassed by the remake, it is still quite good.

People Watch: Vera Clouzot, wife of Henri-Georges, appears as Linda.