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The Wages of Fear

Starring:

Charles Vanel

Darío Moreno

Folco Lulli

Jo Dest

Luis De Lima

Peter van Eyck

Véra Clouzot

William Tubbs

Yves Montand

Directed by:

Henri-Georges Clouzot

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 131 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: France, Italy

Welcome to the world of real men before Health and Safety, Metrosexuality and Zac Efron came along and ruined everything. In The Wages of Fear’s South American village bar brawls are a nightly occurrence, man-points are vital and people drive trucks full of Nitroglycerine with a cigar in their mouth and a drink in their hand. So, if you’ve been made to watch Love Actually with your girlfriend for the third time in a week, put this in the DVD player and bathe in the testosterone.

When an oil-fire rages out of control, stocks of Nitroglycerine are needed to blow out the fire (standard practice apparently) and two teams of truck drivers are picked from the desperate villagers to drive this explosive cargo through the South American jungle. Every bump of the road or fallen branch could potentially spell disaster for the drivers as they make their way through oil lakes, boulder-strewn valleys and treacherous mountain passes. In a bravely slow-paced opening we get a picture of a stagnating village of unemployed westerners and mistreated indigenous workers. We learn why the main protagonists would risk their lives for work and a slim chance of a big money payoff and why they would do anything to get out. The concept of the storyline is simple but perfect in the hands of a master of suspense like Clouzot. You end up waiting with bated breath for a truck to blow up as you know one must – but which? It’s shot in a gritty and real way and there is no hint of melodrama or of glorifying the feat. It wrings out every drop of suspense from the simplest of situations and exchanges.

The characterisation is excellent and well-rounded. We have stubborn Mario (Montand) who is driven by a desire for money and success, Jo (Vanel) who loses his nerve, supercool Bimba (van Eyck) and the talkative Luigi (Lulli). A tense rivalry develops between the two teams and we are constantly wondering whether it will boil over. You can see The Wages of Fear echo in many movies since, including the likes of Speed, Armageddon and The Italian Job. Strangely, it could also be a possible inspiration for Mario Brothers as there is a rotund moustachioed character and a dark lanky individual, one named Mario and one named Luigi – just the wrong way round. Coincidence? I hope not.

Modern audiences may find it quite hard to stomach because it’s French, has subtitles, is in black and white and contains absolutely no CGI. It does, however, need the audience to give it their full attention and to be seen as the classic stripped-back adventure that it is.

It's Got: Mario and Luigi, bucket loads of suspense, well-rounded characters

It Needs: Patience to get through the scene setting.

DVD Extras A few trailers, posters and cast biographies - nothing to write home about DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Alternatives:

Armageddon, Les Diaboliques, Sorcerer, Speed

Summary

The Wages of Fear is a lesson in how to make an excellent tension-busting action movie. Clouzot’s classic is brimming with memorable characters, suspense and testosterone.

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