The Wages of Fear

The Wages of Fear (French: Le salaire de la peur) is a 1953 French-Italian thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand, and based on the 1950 French novel Le salaire de la peur (lit. "The Salary of Fear") by Georges Arnaud. When an oil well owned by an American company catches fire, the company hires four European men, down on their luck, to drive two trucks over mountain dirt roads, loaded with nitroglycerine needed to extinguish the flames. The film brought Clouzot international fame—winning both the Golden Bear and the Palme d'Or at the 1953 Berlin Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, respectively—and allowed him to direct Les Diaboliques. In France, it was the 4th highest-grossing film of the year with a total of 6,944,306 admissions.[2]

The Wages of Fear
Promotional release poster
Directed byHenri-Georges Clouzot
Produced byRaymond Borderie
Screenplay byHenri-Georges Clouzot
Jérome Geronimi
Based onLe salaire de la peur
by Georges Arnaud
StarringYves Montand
Charles Vanel
Folco Lulli
Peter Van Eyck
Music byGeorges Auric
CinematographyArmand Thirard
Edited byMadeleine Gug
Etiennette Muse
Henri Rust
Distributed byDistributors Corporation of America (US)
Criterion Collection (1999 DVD release)
Release date
  • 22 April 1953
Running time
153 minutes (original French theatrical version)
148 minutes (international edit)


Frenchmen Mario and Jo, German Bimba and Italian Luigi are stuck in the isolated town of Las Piedras. Surrounded by desert, the town is linked to the outside world only by a small airport, but the airfare is beyond the means of the men. There is little opportunity for employment aside from the American corporation that dominates the town, Southern Oil Company (SOC), which operates the nearby oil fields and owns a walled compound within the town. SOC is suspected of unethical practices such as exploiting local workers and taking the law into its own hands, but the townspeople's dependence upon it is such that they suffer in silence.

Mario is a sarcastic Corsican playboy, who treats his devoted lover, Linda, with disdain. Jo is an aging ex-gangster who just recently found himself stranded in the town. Bimba is an intense, quiet man whose father was murdered by the Nazis, and who himself worked for three years in a salt mine. Luigi, Mario's roommate, is a jovial, hardworking man, who has just learned that he is dying from cement dust in his lungs. Mario befriends Jo due to their common background of having lived in Paris, but a rift develops between Jo and the other cantina regulars because of his combative, arrogant personality.

A massive fire erupts at one of the SOC oil fields. The only way to extinguish the flames and cap the well is an explosion caused by nitroglycerine. With short notice and lack of proper equipment, it must be transported within jerrycans placed in two large trucks from the SOC headquarters, 300 miles away. Due to the poor condition of the roads and the highly volatile nature of nitroglycerine, the job is considered too dangerous for the unionized SOC employees.

The company foreman, Bill O'Brien, recruits truck drivers from the local community. Despite the dangers, many of the locals volunteer, lured by the high pay: US$2,000 per driver. This is a fortune to them, and the money is seen by some as the only way out of their dead-end lives. The pool of applicants is narrowed down to four handpicked drivers: Mario, Bimba and Luigi are chosen, along with a German named Smerloff. Smerloff fails to appear on the appointed day, so Jo, who knows O' Brien from his bootlegging days, is substituted in his place. The other drivers suspect that Jo intimidated Smerloff in some way to facilitate his own hiring.

Jo and Mario transport the nitroglycerin in one vehicle; Luigi and Bimba in the other, with thirty minutes separating them in order to limit potential casualties. The drivers are forced to deal with a series of physical and mental obstacles, including a stretch of extremely rough road called "the washboard", a construction barricade that forces them to teeter around a rotten platform above a precipice, and a boulder blocking the road. Jo finds that his nerves are not what they used to be, and the others confront Jo about his increasing cowardice. Finally, Luigi and Bimba's truck explodes without warning, killing them both.

Mario and Jo arrive at the scene of the explosion only to find a large crater rapidly filling with oil from a pipeline ruptured in the blast. Jo exits the vehicle to help Mario navigate through the oil-filled crater. The truck, however, is in danger of becoming bogged down and during their frantic attempts to prevent it from getting stuck, Mario runs over Jo. Although the vehicle is ultimately freed from the muck, Jo is mortally wounded. On their arrival at the oil field, Mario and Jo are hailed as heroes, but Jo is dead and Mario collapses from exhaustion. Upon his recovery, Mario heads home in the same truck, now freed of its dangerous cargo. He collects double the wages following his friends' deaths, and refuses the appointed chauffeur offered by SOC. Mario jubilantly drives down a mountain road, while a party is being held at the cantina back in town where Mario's friends eagerly await his arrival. Mario swerves recklessly and intentionally, having cheated death so many times on the same road. He takes one corner too fast and plunges through the guardrail to his death. Linda, dancing in the cantina, appears to faint.



The Wages of Fear was critically hailed upon its original release. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote "The excitement derives entirely from the awareness of nitroglycerine and the gingerly, breathless handling of it. You sit there waiting for the theatre to explode."[3] The film was also a hit with the public gaining 6,944,306 Admissions in France where it was the 4th highest earning film of the year.[4][5]

In 1982, Pauline Kael called it "an existential thriller—the most original and shocking French melodrama of the 50s. ... When you can be blown up at any moment only a fool believes that character determines fate. ... If this isn't a parable of man's position in the modern world, it's at least an illustration of it. ... The violence ... is used to force a vision of human existence."[6] In 1992, Roger Ebert stated that "The film's extended suspense sequences deserve a place among the great stretches of cinema."[7] Leonard Maltin awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars,calling it a "marvelously gritty and extremely suspenseful epic".[8] In 2010, the film was ranked #9 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema."[9] It currently holds a 100% approval rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes aggregated from 41 reviews.[10]

The film was drastically cut for its 1955 U.S. release, losing around 35 minutes of its original running time. This included the cutting of several scenes giving a negative portrayal of the fictional American oil company "SOC" after the film was accused of anti-Americanism.

Restoration and home video

One of the best known and most successful of Clouzot's films, The Wages of Fear has been widely released on every home video format.[11][12][13] However, with the exception of a French DVD (TF1 Vidéo, 2001) featuring the original 153-minute French theatrical version, until recently most releases only contained a slightly edited 148-minute version. A comprehensive 4K restoration, based on the original negative and supervised by cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman, was completed in 2017.[14] It has greatly improved audio and video quality,[15][16] and has been released on Blu-ray, DVD and DCP in France, (TF1 Vidéo), the UK (BFI) and Japan (IVC).

The film was colorized in 1996 with the approval of Clouzot's daughter.[17] It was subsequently broadcast on French television and released on French VHS.[18]


The film is unique in that it won both the Golden Bear and the Palme d'Or.


Violent Road (aka Hell's Highway), directed by Howard W. Koch in 1958, and Sorcerer, directed by William Friedkin in 1977, are American remakes. The first is not credited as such. The second was described by the director as an adaptation of the original novel.[22]

See also

The Goon Show episode "The Fear of Wages" was inspired by the 1953 film.


  1. ^ "Le Salaire de la Peur". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Le Salaire de la peur (1953)". 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  3. ^ "The Wages of Fear". 1 January 1953. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Le Salaire de la peur (1953)". 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  5. ^ "1953 at the box office". Box Office Story.
  6. ^ Pauline Kael (1991). 5001 Nights at the Movies. New York: Holt Paperbacks. p. 821. ISBN 978-0-8050-1367-2.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert (6 March 1992). "The Wages of Fear Movie Review (1955)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  8. ^ Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 1512. ISBN 9780451418104.
  9. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema: 9. The Wages of Fear". Empire. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  10. ^ "The Wages of Fear". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  11. ^ "The Wages of Fear LaserDiscs". LaserDisc Database.
  12. ^ "The Wages of Fear DVD comparison". DVDCompare.
  13. ^ "The Wages of Fear Blu-ray comparison". DVDCompare.
  14. ^ "Interview: Guillaume Schiffman". Ecran Total.
  15. ^ "The Wages of Fear Blu-ray comparison". Caps-a-holic.
  16. ^ "Le salaire de la peur Blu-ray Test". DVDClassik.
  17. ^ "Le Salaire de la peur: Mais de quelle couleur étaient-ils donc?". Le Camion Club de France.
  18. ^ "Le salaire de la peur VHS".
  19. ^ "3rd Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  20. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Wages of Fear". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Film in 1955".
  22. ^ William Friedkin, The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir, HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. Memoir of the director.

External links

1953 Cannes Film Festival

The 6th Cannes Film Festival was held from 15 to 29 April 1953. The Grand Prix of the Festival went to The Wages of Fear by Henri-Georges Clouzot. The festival opened with Horizons sans fin by Jean Dréville.

During the opening ceremony, Walt Disney was awarded the "Legion of Honour" from the hands of Monsieur Hugues, Minister of Information.

1953 in film

The year 1953 in film involved some significant events.

3rd Berlin International Film Festival

The 3rd annual Berlin International Film Festival was held from 18 to 28 June 1953. This year's festival did not give any official jury prizes, instead awards were given by audience voting. This continued until the FIAPF granted Berlin "A-Status" in 1956.Golden Bear was awarded to Le Salaire de la peur by audience vote. The festival held a retrospective on the Silent films.

Blairstown Theater Festival

The Blairstown Theater Festival operated from December 2006 through November 2007 at historic Roy's Hall (also known as Roy's Theatre), a former silent movie theater built in 1913 at 30 Main Street in Blairstown, New Jersey.

On July 13, 2007, the company attracted considerable media attention when they presented three screenings of the classic horror film, Friday the 13th, which was shot in and around Blairstown in the fall of 1979. Roy's Hall appears in the film shortly after the opening credits.The company's January 2007 production of Letters from the Inside was selected by The Star-Ledger as one of the top five new plays of the 2006–2007 New Jersey theater season and actress Kelli Ambrose, who played Mandy in Letters from the Inside, was selected as one of the top five Best Leading Actresses in a Play.Among the other concerts and productions presented by the Blairstown Theater Festival were Nancy Anderson singing early Broadway songs backed by the Baroque Orchestra of North Jersey (Baroque to Broadway), the Still River Band in Concert, Malachy McCourt and Jarlath Conroy in A Couple of Blaguards, Betsy Palmer and Will Hutchins in A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, the New Jersey premiere of I Am Anne Frank, and concerts by cabaret performers KT Sullivan (Vienna to Weimar), John O'Neil ('So Kaye), the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble (Holiday Light), Cris Groenendaal (Music of the Night), Jana Robbins (One Hell of a Ride! The Songs of Cy Coleman) and jazz pianist Bill Mays and his Inventions Trio.The company also presented several film festivals with such classic titles as Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Seven Samurai, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, A Night at the Opera, The Court Jester, La Belle et la Bête, Black Orpheus, Mon Oncle, The Wages of Fear and La Strada.

The Blairstown Theater Festival was not able to continue past its first season for several reasons. Most significantly, Blairstown Township suddenly increased the real estate taxes on the building by more than 680% (from $1,031.55 to $7,032.30) and the landlord decided to sell the theatre.A CD featuring highlights from the Blairstown Theater Festival's season was released in February 2008.

Blue Ribbon Awards for Best Foreign Film

The Blue Ribbon Award for Best Foreign Film is a prize recognizing excellence in Foreign film. It is awarded annually by the Association of Tokyo Film Journalists as one of the Blue Ribbon Awards.

Charles Vanel

Charles-Marie Vanel (21 August 1892 – 15 April 1989) was a French actor and director. He made his screen debut in 1912, in Robert Péguy's Jim Crow, and is perhaps best remembered for his role as a desperate truck driver in Clouzot's acclaimed The Wages of Fear, a film that won both the Golden Bear and Palme d'Or in 1953.

In Hitchcock's 1955 film, To Catch a Thief, he played a restaurateur who had served in the French Resistance with Cary Grant. Later in his career he would act alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo (Magnet of Doom) and Klaus Kinski (Golden Night).

In his 77-year career he appeared in more than 200 films.

Georges Arnaud

Henri Girard (1917 - 1987) was a French author who used the pseudonym Georges Arnaud. He was born in Montpellier. He was the author of the novel The Wages of Fear (French: Le salaire de la peur).

Golden Bear

The Golden Bear (German: Goldener Bär) is the highest prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin International Film Festival. The bear is the heraldic animal of Berlin, featured on both the coat of arms and flag of Berlin. The winners of the first Berlin International Film Festival in 1951 were determined by a German panel, and there were five winners of the Golden Bear, divided by categories and genres. Between 1952 and 1955, the winners of the Golden Bear were determined by the audience members. In 1956, the FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films) formally accredited the festival, and since then the Golden Bear has been awarded by an international jury.

Henri-Georges Clouzot

Henri-Georges Clouzot (French: [ɑ̃ʁi ʒɔʁʒ kluzo]; (1907-11-20)20 November 1907 – (1977-01-12)12 January 1977) was a French film director, screenwriter and producer. He is best remembered for his work in the thriller film genre, having directed The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques, which are critically recognized to be among the greatest films from the 1950s. Clouzot also directed documentary films, including The Mystery of Picasso, which was declared a national treasure by the government of France.

Clouzot was an early fan of the cinema and, desiring a career as a writer, moved to Paris. He was later hired by producer Adolphe Osso to work in Berlin, writing French-language versions of German films. After being fired from German studios due to his friendship with Jewish producers, Clouzot returned to France, where he spent years bedridden after contracting tuberculosis. Upon recovering, Clouzot found work in Nazi occupied France as a screenwriter for the German-owned company Continental Films. At Continental, Clouzot wrote and directed films that were very popular in France. His second film Le Corbeau drew controversy over its harsh look at provincial France and Clouzot was fired from Continental before its release. As a result of his association with Continental, Clouzot was barred by the French government from filmmaking until 1947.

After the ban was lifted, Clouzot reestablished his reputation and popularity in France during the late 1940s with successful films including Quai des Orfèvres. After the release of his comedy film Miquette et sa mère, Clouzot married Véra Gibson-Amado, who would star in his next three feature films. In the early and mid-1950s, Clouzot drew acclaim from international critics and audiences for The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques. Both films would serve as source material for remakes decades later. After the release of La Vérité, Clouzot's wife Véra died of a heart attack and Clouzot's career suffered due to depression, illness and new critical views of films from the French New Wave. Clouzot's career became less active in later years, limited to a few television documentaries and two feature films in the 1960s. Clouzot wrote several unused scripts in the 1970s and died in Paris in 1977.

Henri-Georges Clouzot filmography

Henri-Georges Clouzot is an award-winning French film director, writer and producer. He has contributed to many projects as either the writer, director, producer, or a combination of the three.

His first feature film was Tout pour l'amour (1933) and as a sole director the first was the 1942 mystery The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (French: L'Assassin Habite au 21), which featured Clouzot as both screenwriter and director. After the release of The Raven (French: Le Corbeau), Clouzot found himself barred from making movies until 1947. Clouzot was later embraced by international critics and audiences following the release of The Wages of Fear (French: Le Salaire de la Peur) and Diabolique (French: Les Diaboliques).

Clouzot's declining health interfered with his later work and made it necessary to abandon his production of L'Enfer. He released his final film La Prisonnière in 1966. L'Enfer's script was filmed by Claude Chabrol in 1994.

List of highest-grossing films in France

The following is a list of the films with the most cinema admissions in France, as of January 13, 2019.

Background colour indicates films currently in cinemasThe website for the above table lists La Grande Illusion (1937) with an estimated 12.5 million admissions but the actual admissions are unknown.

Sorcerer (film)

Sorcerer is a 1977 American thriller film directed and produced by William Friedkin and starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, and Amidou. The second adaptation of Georges Arnaud's 1950 French novel Le Salaire de la peur, it has been widely considered a remake of the 1953 film The Wages of Fear. Friedkin, however, has disagreed with this assessment. The plot depicts four outcasts from varied backgrounds meeting in a South American village, where they are assigned to transport cargoes of aged, poorly kept dynamite that is so unstable that it is 'sweating' its dangerous basic ingredient, nitroglycerin.Sorcerer was originally conceived as a side-project to Friedkin's next major film, The Devil's Triangle, with a modest US$2.5 million budget. The director later opted for a bigger production, which he thought would become his legacy. The cost of Sorcerer was earmarked at $15 million, escalating to $22 million following a troubled production with various filming locations—primarily in the Dominican Republic—and conflicts between Friedkin and his crew. The mounting expenses required the involvement of two major film studios, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, with both studios sharing the U.S. distribution and Cinema International Corporation being responsible for the international release.The film gained mixed to negative critical reception upon its release. Its domestic (including rentals) and worldwide gross of $5.9 million and $9 million respectively did not recoup its costs. A considerable number of critics, as well as the director himself, attributed the film's commercial failure to its release at roughly the same time as Star Wars, which instantly became a pop-culture phenomenon.The film has enjoyed a critical re-evaluation, and some critics have lauded it as an overlooked masterpiece, perhaps "the last undeclared [one] of the American '70s". Director Friedkin considers Sorcerer among one of his favorite works, and the most personal and difficult film he has made. Tangerine Dream's electronic music score was also acclaimed, leading the band to become popular soundtrack composers in the 1980s. After a lengthy lawsuit filed against Universal Studios and Paramount, Friedkin started supervising a digital restoration of Sorcerer, with the new print premiering at the 70th Venice International Film Festival on August 29, 2013. Its remastered home video release on Blu-ray came out on April 22, 2014.


Tellison is a four-piece indie rock band from London, England, formed in 2000. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Stephen Davidson, guitarist and vocalist Peter Phillips, bass guitarist and vocalist Andrew Tickell and drummer Henry Danowski.

They have released three studio albums: Contact! Contact! (2007), The Wages of Fear (2011) and Hope Fading Nightly (2015) as well as two split extended plays and a number of singles. The band have been somewhat secretive as to the origins of their name, revealing only that it is "the surname of a man whose life story is very good".The band have received exposure from being featured as a recommended artist on Myspace, having their tracks feature on television shows such as The Inbetweeners, Made in Chelsea and Strictly Come Dancing as well as opening for bands including Biffy Clyro, Noah and the Whale, Kevin Devine, Mumford & Sons and Twin Atlantic.

The Last Dinosaur

The Last Dinosaur (Saigo no Kyoru) is a 1977 Japanese/American tokusatsu co-production, co-directed by Alexander Grasshoff and Tsununobu Kotani, billed as Tom Kotani, and co-produced by Japan's Tsuburaya Productions, and Rankin/Bass Productions. The movie was filmed at Tsuburaya Studios in Tokyo. The film was intended for a US theatrical release, but failed to find a distributor and ended up as a television movie airing on ABC on February 11, 1977 in an edited 95-minute run time. The film was eventually picked up for overseas markets by Cinema International Corporation, where it was released in the full 106-minute version as a double bill in the UK with the edited-down version of Sorcerer (considered a remake of "The Wages of Fear"). Toho also picked up distribution rights to The Last Dinosaur in Japan for a theatrical release utilizing the 106-minute uncut version in English language with subtitles, and later debuted on Japanese television dubbed in Japanese.

The film stars Richard Boone and Joan Van Ark. William Overgard wrote the screenplay. The score was composed, as was most of the music for all Rankin/Bass specials and series, by Maury Laws, while the title song "He's the Last Dinosaur", with lyrics by Jules Bass, was sung by Nancy Wilson, and arranged and conducted by Bernard Hoffer.

The Wages of Fear (album)

The Wages of Fear is the second studio album by English indie rock band Tellison. It was released on 13 June 2011 through Naim Edge Records. The album was made available to listen to on SoundCloud on 27 April 2011. The Wages of Fear was released to wide critical acclaim and praise.

Violent Road

Violent Road, also known as Hell's Highway, is a 1958 American film directed by Howard W. Koch, written by Richard H. Landau, and starring Brian Keith, Dick Foran, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Merry Anders, Sean Garrison and Joanna Barnes. A remake of The Wages of Fear, it was released by Warner Bros. on April 11, 1958.

Vox Sola

"Vox Sola" (Latin for lone voice) is the twenty-second episode (production #122) of the television series Star Trek: Enterprise.

When a strange, symbiotic alien creature boards Enterprise and captures several crew members, it's up to Ensign Hoshi Sato to decipher the creature's complex language.

Véra Clouzot

Véra Clouzot (30 December 1913 – 15 December 1960) was a Brazilian-French film actress and screenwriter. She is known for playing Christina Delassalle in Les Diaboliques (1955).

William Friedkin

William Friedkin (; born August 29, 1935) is an American film and television director, producer and screenwriter closely identified with the "New Hollywood" movement of the 1970s. Beginning his career in documentaries in the early 1960s, he is perhaps best known for directing The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973), the former of which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director. Some of his other films include the pioneering queer drama The Boys in the Band (1970), the international suspense thriller Sorcerer (1977), the highly controversial 1980 crime film Cruising (1980), the action thriller To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), the psychological horror film Bug (2006), and the dark comedy Killer Joe (2011).

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