The Wages of Fear

The Wages of Fear

(Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)

Rating: 5/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

Summary: One of the first true action films, explosive road trip The Wages of Fear is the thriller Hitchcock wished he made.

Few films are as atmospheric and tightly constructed as Henri-Georges Clouzot's masterpiece of suspense The Wages of Fear. The plot is simple but the complexities of the journey and human emotion are so richly drawn that it's impossible to get caught up in this riveting drama.

A quartet of desperate men accept a risky task for big money: transport two trucks brimming with highly volatile and flammable nitroglycerin from A to B for a ruthless oil company on the outskirts of an unbearably hot South American village.

Clouzot takes nearly an hour to establish his characters - a rarity for an action thriller to put so much investment in its groundwork before attempting to quicken the cinemagoers' pulses. It's because we can relate to the stars - whether wimpish or coldly determined - that we care when they're placed in mortal danger. This isn't escapist entertainment; it's invasive.

With this film and Les Diaboliques two years later, Clouzot was rightly regarded as "the French Hitchcock" but closer to the darker, more psychologically-tinged and morally ambiguous Hitchcock of Vertigo and Strangers on a Train than his more barnstorming entertainments ala North by Northwest and The Birds.

There are unforgettable scenes throughout The Wages of Fear - haunting, brutal, exhilerating and taut - that are brought back to vivd life via the BFI's beautiful new 4K restoration for this Blu-ray. This is the definitive edition of this world cinema masterpiece.

BFI Blu-ray edition features:

  • Available for the first time in the UK, this new 4K restoration of the original French theatrical release is presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
  • Interview with Assistant Director Michel Romanoff (2009, 23 mins)
  • Interview with Clouzot biographer Marc Godin (2009, 10 mins)
  • Interview with Professor Lucy Mazdon (2017, 35 mins): an in-depth interview about Henri-Georges Clouzot and The Wages of Fear
  • The Guardian Lecture: Yves Montand in conversation with Don Allen (98 mins, audio only): recorded in 1989, the star discusses his distinguished career
  • Audio commentary with film critic Adrian Martin (2017, 152 mins)
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Illustrated booklet with a new essay by Andy Miller, original reviews by Karel Reisz and Penelope Houston, an appreciation of Clouzot by Paul Ryan, and full film credits

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