Tuesday, May 1, 2012

THE WAGES OF FEAR (1953)

In a remote South American town (if you can even call this small collection of shacks connected by a dirt road, that's more pot holes than road, a town), a group of non-citizens melt the day away dreaming under the smoldering sun of a way out of this hell. The only way out is by plane, but with no money and no jobs they might as well be waiting on Falkor from THE NEVERENDING STORY to come and pick them up.

Things look grim for the guys, but then a stranger, Jo, an ex-gangster, comes to town and soon the group is divided. Most of the men hate the newcomer, but fellow Frenchman Mario (Yves Montand) mistakenly thinks that Jo is his ticket out and starts sucking up to Jo and even turns his back on his friends. A oil fire erupts 300 miles away and the oil company needs a truckload of nitroglycerin delivered in order to put it out. The job is way too dangerous to risk using their own unionized men so they offer the job to bums who hang out at the cantina because nobody would cares if they live or die. Two men to a truck. Two trucks and $2,000 per person upon delivery.

THE WAGES OF FEAR is a brilliant film and one of the key elements to its success is it takes the time at the beginning of the film to build up the characters so that way when disaster strikes we're firmly invested in them and actually care what happens to them. It also doesn't hurt that there's so many talented actors onscreen, especially Yves Montand.

Anyway, it's a great film, masterful direction and adapted script by Henri-Georges Clouzot, beautiful photography, great acting by everybody and Vera Clouzot was absolutely beautiful. Even 60 years later THE WAGES OF FEAR is still as exciting and tense as ever. Highly recommended.

Due to McCarthyism it was branded as Communist propaganda because it showed American oil companies as being unfair to it's S. American workers.  Variety ran a headline calling it "Red-Tainted" and when it was finally released in America it had to be trimmed by 50 minutes!!!