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The Wages of Fear (The Criterion Collection) (1953)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck, Folco Lulli, Véra Clouzot
  • Directors: Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • Writers: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Georges Arnaud, Jérôme Géronimi
  • Producers: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Raymond Borderie
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2005
  • Run Time: 147 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000AQKUH2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,757 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Wages of Fear (The Criterion Collection) (1953)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New restored high-definition transfer
  • New interview with assistant director Michel Romanoff
  • New interview with Henri-Georges Clouzot biographer Marc Godin
  • Archival interview with Yves Montand on working with Clouzot
  • A new essay by novelist Dennis Lehane
  • Original theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In the squalid, impoverished South American town of Las Piedras, desperate men and women from all over the world scrape out a living and dream of escape, under the watchful eye of the ruling Southern Oil Company.

Additional Features

The 1999 DVD release was prominent since it contained the recently rereleased 148-minute version after playing the art-house circuit, but the disc (#36 in Criterion's line) didn't have much else going for it. This 2005 release (still number #36) adds the usual Criterion luster, starting off right with a beautiful transfer (virtually none of the dirt on the original DVD) and a smarter take on the subtitles. The cut is slightly different, but just by a few frames. As for the extra disc, there's a deft documentary on director Clouzot and some so-so new interviews. The excerpt from Yves Montand shot a few years before he died in 1991 is charming. --Doug Thomas

Customer Reviews

This is one of the best suspense films ever made.
Orson Welles
This classic really should be seen by all, even if you're one of those people who hate foreign films because you "have to read subtitles", just get over it.
WelcomeTheAbyss
Director Henri-George Clouzot has made a film of great power.
RMurray847

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on June 15, 2000
Format: DVD
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.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 2, 2006
Format: DVD
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.Read more ›
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 23, 1999
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 17, 2009
Format: Blu-ray
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 lives to make it plausible that four men would undertake such an astonishingly dangerous job as hauling nitroglycerin over treacherous jungle and mountain dirt roads. Even granting all that, however, the start is by any standard really, really slow. And I suspect that of the people you encounter who proclaim 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? Some people assert that the film has been so overhyped 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.
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