Henri-Georges Clouzot (director)
BFI Film (studio)
23 October 2017 (released)
25 October 2017
This French-Italian drama from 1953 brought director Clouzot international fame and was France’s highest-grossing film upon its original release. The story, based on the novel by Georges Arnaud, revolves around four truckers assigned to drive a highly explosive cargo of nitro-glycerine over treacherous mountain roads in Venezuela. French singer/actor Yves Montand is the leader of the pack and Véra Clouzot, the director’s wife, play Montand’s love interest.
The story begins in the tiny backwater town of Las Piedras in Venezuela, South America. The only ‘escape route’ is the nearby airport but for the locals, flying is a luxury they can hardly afford thanks to limited job opportunities! The men lucky enough to have a job all work for a big American Corporation called SOC (Southern Oil Company) although SOC has a habit of exploiting its poor workers. Among those stuck in Las Piedras are Frenchmen Mario (Yves Montand) and Jo (Charles Varnel) as well as Italian Luigi (Folco Lulli) and German Bimba (Peter van Eyck). All four men have chips on their shoulders: bad-tempered Corsican playboy Mario takes his loyal and devoted lover Linda (Vèra Clouzot) like a doormat while Jo happens to be an ex-gangster whose best years are far behind him. The introvert Bimba has learned that his father had been murdered by the Nazis and the ever cheerful Luigi sees his chirpy personality come to a crush when he learns that he suffers from a terminal lung disease brought on by a previous job. As they all fritter time and hope away in the local cantina, an opportunity comes their way which they cannot miss out on. One of the local SOC oil fields is engulfed in flames and the only way to extinguish them is by creating an explosion using nitro-glycerine. Only four men will be chosen for this dangerous job (which pays half a fortune should any of them survive it!) and so the desperate locals all sign up for the job. In the end, only four men get it and of course we know who they are though rumours emerge that Jo got assigned by means of foul play. Despite Linda’s desperate protests Mario and Jo set of in one truck while Bimba and Luigi follow in the second track, both vehicles loaded with jerry-cans that contain the dangerous liquid.
Both parties try to outdo each other so the survivors can claim additional pay-outs… thus a race against time and survival begins, acted out on the highly treacherous roads and mountain passes which sees our anti-heroes battling it out for almost 300 miles. As temperatures soar and tempers flare it quickly becomes evident there is no space for loyalty among friends and in the end the ‘winner’ takes it all. But who will be the winner? To reveal more would be spoiling the broth but rest assured this stark road adventure is adrenalin-charged beginning to end and holds an unexpected twist in store.
The acting is top-notch though this is Yves Montand’s film – his Mario is relentless and unforgiving. Some of the close-up shots reveal moving screens in the background (during the scenes in which the trucks race along narrow mountain road and one wonders whether it couldn’t have been filmed in a more realistic way.
This Dual-Format edition of THE WAGES OF FEAR furthermore offers Extras and info booklet.