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The Wages of Fear
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • New video interviews with assistant director Michel Romanoff and Henri-Georges Clouzot biographer Marc Godin
  • Interview with Yves Montand from 1988
  • Henri Georges Clouzot: An Enlightened Tyrant, a 2004 documentary on the director's career
  • Censored, an analysis of cuts to the film made for the 1955 U.S. release
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A 24-page booklet featuring a new essay by novelist Dennis Lehane and a compilation of interviews with the cast and crew of the film

The Wages of Fear

2005 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Starring: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter Van Eyck, William Tubbs, Vera Clouzot, Folco Lulli
1953 | 148 Minutes | Licensor: TFI/Revcom International

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #36
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 22, 2005
Review Date: January 20, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

In a squalid South American oil town, four desperate men sign on for a suicide mission to drive trucks loaded with nitroglycerin over a treacherous mountain route. As they ferry their explosive cargo to a faraway oil fire, each bump and jolt tests their courage, their friendship, and their nerves. The result is one of the greatest thrillers ever committed to celluloid, a white-knuckle ride from France's legendary master of suspense, Henri-Georges Clouzot.

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

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PICTURE

The Wages of Fear is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set.

The film was previously released on DVD by Criterion in a simple edition with a fairly bland, blurry transfer (though at the time the best the film had probably looked on home video.) This two-disc edition sports a brand new transfer and itís an incredible step up.

As I alluded to before the previous edition was a bit fuzzy and had a haze throughout. This release is much sharper with an incredible amount of detail throughout most of it. Contrast has also been greatly improved, where darker scenes that were once hard to see have become much clearer. Blacks and whites also come off stronger as a result.

The print used for the original release had its fair share of problems but overall was much better than I would have expected. This transfer presents an even cleaner print. Vertical lines were a problem in the old release but theyíre not as evident here. Plenty of marks have been removed and the edges of the frame have also been cleaned up.

Overall an impressive upgrade and just for this aspect alone is the disc worth upgrading to from the older release.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Dolby Digital mono track is also a noticeable upgrade. The original DVD presented a rather flat, somewhat garbled track. This one is much sharper and cleaner. Some of the English dialogue, which was almost unintelligible before, is easier to hear, and the track also has more range and more power to it. Itís obviously not going to blow your system away but itís a decent enough mono track.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The previous release had nothing in the way of special features. This one presents a second disc full of them.

The first disc only contains the film (and like the previous release it is the 148-minute version.) The supplements are found on the second dual-layer disc.

Thereís a few interviews on here, starting with a 22-minute piece with assistant director Michel Romanoff. In it he talks about working with Clouzot and the two years that went into making the film. He has some interesting anecdotes about the director, who would call and wake him at night to throw out some ideas. He reminisces on the actual filming and the dangerous conditions they met (they really blew up a rock, and they really filmed on a rickety, partially built bridge.) He also touches on working with Clouzotís wife, Vera, and the interesting substance used for the oil pit sequence (and it wasnít oil.) He calls the making of the film more of an ďarmy operationĒ than anything else. Itís a brief but interesting look at Clouzot and the making of the film.

An interview with Marc Godin is a brief one, only running 10-minutes. Co-author of the book Clouzot: Cineaste he quickly goes over Clouzotís career and his influences. Itís brief and has some interesting things in it, like the problems that Clouzot ran into because of his film Le corbeau but Iíd actually recommend skipping this one and going to the documentary on this disc.

Excerpts from an older interview with Yves Montand, recorded in 1988, is next on the list. Itís a short feature, lasting only 5-minutes, but is worth viewing. Montand talks about becoming an actor and his work on Wages of Fear, a film he considers important to his career. Iíve never seen an interview with Montand before so I found this a nice little treat.

The big feature on here is the 52-minute documentary Henri-Georges Clouzot: The Enlightened Tyrant, a very thorough piece on the career of the director. It covers his younger years and touches on his influences, which were primarily books (he had more of a desire to become a writer) and then follows him to Germany where he got into the film industry. After the Nazis took power he was pretty much kicked out of the country because of his association with his Jewish friends and he returned to France. Once he returned he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent four years in a sanatorium. Once released he got back into film but found himself once again working under the Germans during wartime. During this period he would make Le corbeau and come under fire for it, and then after the war ended he would be banned from the film industry for a number of years because of what was seen as participation with the Germans. It then gets into great detail about his later films, specifically Wages of Fear. Thereís a lot of details about his first wife, Vera Clouzot, and his desire to make her a star (while it was questionable if this would ever really happen, her life was cut short by a heart condition) and then gets into his last few films, with some interesting anecdotes from Brigitte Bardot. Itís a great documentary, and gives a very thorough look at the directorís life and career.

And finally we get a multimedia presentation called Censored, which examines reason as to why the original American version was missing 55-minutes during its initial release. Itís presented with text notes that you navigate through using the arrows on your remote, the notes giving possible reasons as to why certain scenes were cut (including what could possibly be seen as anti-American or seen as containing homosexual undertones) and then play the scenes in question. There is no definitive reason as to why the film was cut down so drastically, in turn missing a third of its original running time, but there are some interesting points brought up here with a nice presentation.

And that closes off the disc. There is also a 24-page booklet included, though I have not yet seen it (I rented this release through Netflix) and will update this review once I do. But according to the Criterion website the release features ďa new essay by novelist Dennis Lehane and a compilation of interviews with the cast and crew of the film.Ē It doesnít look to contain the essay by Danny Peary found in the insert of the original release.

For those concerned about supplements this release is the one to pick up, and is worth upgrading to if you already own the original DVD. The supplements overall are quite informative and offer an excellent look at Clouzot and his work.

8/10

CLOSING

Criterion has done a lovely upgrade for this film. The transfer is a sharp improvement over the fuzzy original release and the new supplements are all worth investing your time in, specifically the documentary. Itís worth picking up, even if you own the original DVD.




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