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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
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

The Wages of Fear

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Starring: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter Van Eyck, William Tubbs, Vera Clouzot, Folco Lulli
1953 | 147 Minutes | Licensor: TFI/Revcom International

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

Release Date: April 21, 2009
Review Date: April 22, 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 8.6/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterionís Blu-ray edition of Wages of Fear is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p.

This release, more or less, is a port of Criterionís 2-disc DVD re-release. The transfer on this one looks to have been worked over a little more. Itís an absolutely spectacular looking transfer, presenting a much sharper and clearer image, with far better detail (including more obvious film grain) and more distinct gray levels, with strong whites and blacks. The sequence involving the truck backing on the ramp shows an obvious improvement from what was on the 2-disc release (and a night a day difference compared to Criterionís original, bland looking DVD edition.)

The fact the actual digital transfer looks better shouldnít be a real surprise, but the print looks to have been worked over some more, too. The restoration looks to be more thorough on this release and itís almost flawless.

I was expecting a sharp looking image on Blu-ray but Criterion managed to again top my expectations. Itís an absolutely stunning looking picture that does show an improvement over both prior DVD editions.

(Currently we are unable to provide screen captures for Blu-ray releases, though plan to in the near future. Once we have the ability to add captures for Blu-ray releases this review will be updated.)

9/10

We currently do not have Blu-ray captures for this title but are in the process of gathering captures for all of our Blu-ray reviews. Please check back again soon.

AUDIO

A lossless mono track is included. Itís a little better than the previous 2-disc DVDís audio track, sounding a little sharper and crisper. Music sounds fairly good, if a little harsh at times, and dialogue is crystal clear. Like the previous 2-disc DVD release, it also features nothing in the way of damage, with no his or background noise. An excellent mono track.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This Blu-ray, as I mentioned before, is basically a port of the 2-disc DVD release, packing everything on one disc with the film. For the most part, the supplements are the same (one is slightly different) and Iíve copied most of my review of the supplements from my DVD review (I will indicate where the supplements are the same.)

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. (This feature is the same as what appears on the DVD.)

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. (This feature is the same as what appears on the DVD.)

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. (This feature is the same as what appears on the DVD.)

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. Itís been divided into 7 chapters. (This feature is the same as what appears on the DVD.)

The feature slightly different from what appeared on the 2-disc DVD is the final supplement, Censored. The original DVD presented a ďmultimediaĒ presentation with a mix of text notes and clips offering a possible explanation as to why 55-minutes was cut from the original American version. Here Criterion removes the text notes and manual navigation with a more visual presentation with narration by Allison Mackie, who speaks over snippets and pictures from quoted articles. While the text and manual navigation has been replaced by a more visual presentation the same clips are still shown. The essay suggests that the cuts were made to remove scenes that either contained homosexual undertones or anti-American sentiment. Odd that Criterion would upgrade this feature for the Blu-ray version, but nothing is missing and it is a better presentation. The feature runs 12-minutes.

Also exclusive to the Blu-ray release (and all Blu-ray titles from Criterion) is the Timeline. You can open it from the pop-up menu, or by pressing the RED button on your remote. This is a timeline that shows your current position in the film. It lists the index chapters for the film. You also have the ability to ďbookmarkĒ scenes by pressing the GREEN button and return to them by selecting them on the timeline. You can also delete bookmarks by pressing the BLUE button. This is pretty common on Blu-ray (also common on HD DVD) so itís nothing new, but itís a nice presentation and easy to use.

The supplements are generally the same from the 2-disc release (the Timeline is the only exclusive feature and the ďCensoredĒ feature has had a bit of an upgrade, though still covers the same material) so anyone with the previous 2-disc release shouldnít be too concerned.

8/10

CLOSING

A rather lovely release for the film. The transfer is a sharp improvement over the previous DVD releases and is the best Iíve yet seen the film. With the excellent supplements ported from the 2-disc DVD this Blu-ray is an easy recommendation.


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