CHICAGO – It’s not often that a film critic gets to write something this blunt and not feel like it’s hyperbole — One of the best films of all time is coming out in Chicago theaters this weekend. A remastered print of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s amazing “The Wages of Fear” will be playing at the Music Box Theatre starting Friday, January 20th, 2012. Be there.
I’m lucky enough to have amassed a significant collection of classic films in the decade I’ve been covering DVD and Blu-ray and, naturally, my Criterion Collection titles are among my most coveted. Within that group, the edition for Clouzot’s “The Wages of Fear” holds a particularly special place. This is a stunning film, of the same caliber as his more-well-known “Diabolique,” which he would make only two years later (and is also available from Criterion). Released in the United States almost exactly 56 years ago, “The Wages of Fear” has lost none of its dramatic power. It’s a model for tension-building, pacing, and even ridiculous French endings (the controversial final scene of “Wages” may be just ludicrous but it’s one of the many things I love about this movie…it’s just so French.)
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “The Wages of Fear” in our reviews section. |
As with so many great thrillers, the set-up for “The Wages of Fear” is so perfectly simple — desperate men stuck in a deadly situation. On the outskirts of a small, desolate town, the Standard Oil Company has a fire that they can’t put out. They need to blow up the well to bury it and that requires tons of nitro-glycerin and the only way to get it there is on trucks over unpaved, dangerous, South American roads. Four men - two drivers per truck - take the offer of $2,000 to strap themselves to what is essentially a bomb on wheels and start the white-knuckle ride. This would make “Ice Road Truckers” puke. Clouzot perfectly builds the tension and likelihood that these poor men will not survive the journey. A scene in which they have to turn the incredibly deadly truck around ranks as one of my all-time favorites. You won’t be able to breathe.
The Wages of Fear
Photo credit: The Criterion Collection