movie film review | chris tookey

Wages Of Fear / Le Salaire De La Peur

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  Wages Of Fear  / Le Salaire De La Peur Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
9.17 /10
Yves Montand , Charles Vanel , Vera Clouzot
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Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Written by: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jerome Geronimi from Georges Arnaud's novel

Released: 1953
Origin: France/ Italy
Colour: BW
Length: 140

Yves Montand and Charles Vanel are two of four truckers ferrying nitro-glycerine through many sorts of nastiness.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The opening shot makes the point clear enough: it's a world in which humans are like frantic beetles, teased by an uncaring God and struggling for individual survival. It's also a harshly capitalistic, America-dominated world; and early US prints were trimmed of such offending passages as the one where the American boss who hires the drivers says "They don't belong to a union, and they don't have any relatives, so if anything happens, no one will come around causing trouble."

Clouzot takes care to establish his characters in the first hour, and some may find this part of the film laboured. However, the preparation pays dividends in the final two-thirds, when Wages of Fear turns into one of the most suspense-filled movies ever made. Awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The American remake, Sorcerer (1977), is far inferior.


Though quite a thriller, (it) would not seem to merit a festival award.

(Bosley Crowther, New York Times)

An acrid, guilty, bitter piece... but... an exercise in dramatic tension rarely equalled... Clouzot's long-drawn reliance on physical suspense... makes the film... seem somewhat arbitrary and contrived.


As skilful as, in its preoccupation with violence and its unrelieved pessimism, it is unlikeable.

(Penelope Houston, Sight and Sound)

The characters... have no size, and at the end one is left without pity for them and without terror of the forces which have overwhelmed them. One respects and admires the strength of Clouzot's style and the vigour of his imagination - an imagination, I may say, which by its creation of cruelties and horrors left a mark on critics usually impassive enough. And after that one simply doesn't care, and not all the fine acting of Yves Montand, Folco Lulli, Peter van Eyck and Charles Vanel, especially Charles Vanel, can make one care.

(Dilys Powell, Sunday Times)

One of the most evil [pictures] ever made, and yet, curiously, one that uses the approach of religion. [It] seeks out epiphanies at the cold-blooded level of the swamp... where deity is first experienced - as despair... The actors try hard, but [it] is not a drama of character; Clouzot is much more interested in ideas than people. He is saying the world is sick unto death... The evil in all this is that [he] does not seem to care what happens to human consciousness... he takes instead a cruel pleasure in all violent dissolution. Clouzot and his kind are cultural atavists arrested in the savage stage.

(Derek Granger, Financial Times)

A long film, maybe a bit overlong... Possesses a cunning craftsmanship which means it doesn't drag ... Not a great film, but a commanding one.

(Tim Pulleine, Films & Filming, 1986)

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