Sunday Matinee: The Wages of Fear

Wages of FearOne of the greatest action suspense thrillers of all time is this 1953 film from director Henri-Georges Clouzot.

Le salaire de la peur aka The Wages of Fear was based on the novel by Georges Arnaud. It’s set in a South American town where four men are down on their luck. Frenchmen Mario and Jo, Dutchman Bimba and Italian Luigi are all looking for a way out of the country. They all ended up there for various reasons and they all take one dangerous job solely for the pay and the chance to escape.

The local oil fields run by an American oil company has just had a major accident and one of their rigs has exploded causing a massive fire. The only way to stop the fire is to blow it up with nitroglycerin. The problem is that the nitro is stored several miles away in the jungle and it needs to be transported through the jungle on very rough roads. The job is too dangerous for union workers so the company offers $2000 U.S. per person to drive the trucks of nitro through the jungle. Naturally many of the locals apply so the “winners” for the job are drawn by lottery and the four European men are chosen for the job.

The four men drive two trucks, 30 minutes apart through the jungle. It is a very intense journey, rough roads and bad bridges play on the men’s nerves. Without giving too much away not everybody makes it.

The novel was remade in 1977 as Sorcerer from director William Friedkin. I’ll be looking at Sorcerer for next week’s Sunday Matinee. This movie holds up extremely well today and is a classic piece of suspense. It’s also one of Clouzot’s best movies along with equally suspenseful Diabolique.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWY77rqoBoI

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.