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Criterion Collection: Wages of Fear [Blu-ray] [1953] [US Import]

Yves Montand , Charles Vanel , Henri-Georges Clouzot    Blu-ray
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel
  • Directors: Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • Format: Black & White, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 21 April 2009
  • Run Time: 148 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001PYD0KM
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,452 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



In 1953, before any American studio exec used the phrase "high concept", Henri-George Clouzot's The Wages of Fear boasted a premise so literally explosive that audiences were excited before they got into the theatres. With an oil-fire burning out of control deep in the South American jungle, two lorryloads of highly unstable nitro-glycerin have to be driven through miles of unstable terrain littered with dangerous turns, crumbling planks, falling rocks and mediocre hardtop. One good jolt will vaporise truck, nitro, drivers and a substantial swathe of the countryside, so the company recruits desperate souls among the loser tramps who loiter around the nowhere town of Las Piedras, begging for any kind of work.

On the road, Clouzot stages a string of unforgettable sequences: one stretch of badly paved track can only be crossed by driving at under six miles an hour or over 40; a mountain turn requires that the trucks back out onto a rickety, rotten wooden structure; a 50-ton boulder has fallen into the road, and one of the drivers calmly drains a litre of nitro into his thermos to blow it up, only remembering when the fuse is lit that this will rain pebbles all over the countryside and a few good hits on the cargo will set it off. This is perhaps as great a mix of action-adventure and contest as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and still a textbook example of sustained suspense.

On the DVD: The print is in great shape, though the image is a little soft; the menu has a clever explosive aspect and uses the same vintage artwork as the sleeve cannily combined with a snippet. There are trailers for both Wages and Clozuot's other masterpiece, Les Diaboliques, as well as biographies of the principal cast, eight stills and three posters.--Kim Newman

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
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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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Cinema - A Poor Quality DVD 19 Jun 2004
This is one of my favourite foreign language films. A true masterpiece of suspense, nerve-jangling tension, excitement with a cool French existentialist philosophy underpinning it all. The Wages of Fear would certainly be a contender in my Top Ten films ever made.
BUT, please don't waste your money on this DVD of the film. The print that was used is in a shocking condition. It is dirty, out of focus, creaky, and the subtitles are so faint they are barely readable. I think it was a disgrace to release a DVD in this condition at all. Without doubt it is worse than VHS, in fact the copy I have, taped off the TV about ten years ago is MUCH better even now. I had hoped to replace it with a sharp DVD edition, but this was a complete waste of money.
As well as the technical shortcomings there are also no DVD extras at all, when a classic like this should be accompanied by documentaries about its greatness and great influence on scores of action films since.
If any film is crying out for restoration and remastering this 1954 French classic is it - especially if this is the best print available for the public in 2004.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Wages of Fear is a magnificent thriller, the last hour-and-a-half of which will have you chewing your nails up to your wrists. The first hour is interesting but, to my mind, a bit slow. We spend a lot of time getting to know the squalor of Las Piedras. The anti-American point of view now just seems quaint.

Las Piedras is a tiny South American (or possibly Central American) town that reeks of poverty and bakes in the hot sun. Children with sores, tired donkeys and mangy dogs fill the dirt streets. It's the final stop for down-and-outers whose only hope is to find work with the Southern Oil Company (you can infer SOC easily is a stand-in for Standard Oil), which dominates the place. "Americans here? You kidding?" says one man. "If there's oil around they're not far behind," says his companion. SOC has a headquarters office in Las Piedras; the oil field is 300 miles away. Into this fly-infested hole arrives Jo (Charles Vanel), a tough, middle-aged French gangster out of luck and out of cash. He encounters Mario (Yves Montand), a ne'er-do-well in his twenties from Corsica who's stuck in Las Piedras. Mario does odd jobs to make enough money for meals and whiskey, beds and takes for granted the young woman who works at the town's cantina, and longs to get out of the place and back to Paris. The two of them bond in a way, the confident tough guy and the young, not-quite-amoral thug-in-training. The shifting relationship between these two is what drives the story; that they can get blown sky high at any moment after the first hour is what keeps us watching.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great surpise! 10 Mar 2006
Through Amazon's excellent rental scheme, I'm trying to educate myself by watching films I haven't seen before in genres I wouldn't normally watch. Although I love much modern French cinema, perhaps I'm showing my ignorance and youth by saying I hadn't heard of Wages of Fear.
Great film, though! It is pretty long, and if it were directed today so much of it would have been cut. But it's the opening twenty minutes or so under the beating South American heat which really set the tone for this claustrophobic thriller. The action scenes are fantastic, there are more set-pieces than you can shake a cinematic stick at and there are some great characterisations by a fine acting ensemble. Yves Montand is, of course, excellent in the lead.
I didn't actually fancy watching this when it came down to watching it (footie and phone calls seemed a priority) But as soon as it started I was hooked. A fantastic suprise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 15 days ago by steven austin
4.0 out of 5 stars Good 'ol film
Saw this film in 50's,-so it was nice to see it again years later!
Published 2 months ago by Arvo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Saw this as a teenager and still enjoyed the film fifty years later!
Published 3 months ago by 0191granddad
4.0 out of 5 stars The film has dated, but is a masterpiece none the less
You will see why Clouzot was hailed as the French Hitchock after watching this film. His photography and direction are taunt and fast, if a little too theatrical compared with... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Collins G.B
4.0 out of 5 stars film
arrived on time . A quality film with a good cast.Saw this years ago, and hoped it would eventually come out on dvd. Well worth the wait.
Published 5 months ago by andrew levens
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant French movie in pristine condition.
Lovely to see such a remarkable French film being given the Blu Ray treatment together with many wonderful extras included.
Published 5 months ago by JK
5.0 out of 5 stars wages of fear
Took a while to get going, but it was quite nail biting, especially when Yves Montand drove to the very edge of the bridge, I was very sad when after all his effort he had to be... Read more
Published 6 months ago by emerald
5.0 out of 5 stars A great movie
Built on a ludicrous premise - "We've got to move this sweaty unstable nitro over bumpy roads by driving so fast there's a bit less chance of blowing everybody up than if we... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ivan
5.0 out of 5 stars “The Wages Of Fear” on BLU RAY – Compatibility Issues On ‘US’ Only...
Mining the same emotional and visual territory as “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” - “The Wages Of Fear” (“La Salaiere De La Per”) is a stunning French thriller set in South... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mark Barry
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wages of Fear DVD 1955
This DVD arrived very swiftly and was well packed. I saw this film many years ago and had promised to get myself the DVD to watch again. Read more
Published 12 months ago by I. Eastgate
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