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December 16, 2000

Wages of Fear

Jean and I were talking once again about Vertical Limit and it's shortcomings, when I remembered another film about characters transporting unstable nitroglycerin across wild terrain. The movie was made in 1953 by French directory Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand and Charles Vanel. It's American title was Wages of Fear. I won't review it here, especially since it's been years since we saw it in an art theater. Just read the review linked to above.

Our main reaction upon this recollection though, was that here was another movie which attempted to portray a nail-bitingly tense ride, and though Clouzot takes the entire first hour of the movie to develop characters and build background, it succeeds many more times over than Vertical Limit. In boiling away all the essence of humanity, limiting characters to convenient cutouts, Vertical Limit removes any reason to care what happens to the characters. Wages of Fear contains characters who are rarely if ever sympathetic, yet you are drawn into their plight and believe their desperation implicitly.

I also saw the 1977 remake of Wages of Fear, Sorcerer, directed by William Friedkin and starring, among others, Roy Scheider. As an American film, made 24 years later, it is much more focused on the action than the original, with a lot of that pesky 'character development' trimmed to allow more scenes with sweaty, fearful men pushing tottering trucks out of ruts while cases of nitroglycerin tinkle ominously.

But even though it is a lesser film to it's inspiration, Sorcerer makes Vertical Limit seem flat. http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/movies/w/wages_fear.html

Posted by dpwakefield at December 16, 2000 02:51 PM