The Wages of Fear
In a busted-ass oil town that could be the South American sister city of the Mexican burg in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a community of stranded and broke European expatriates fritter away the hours. When an oil-well fire breaks out, they are offered a chance to earn enough money to escape--and all they have to do is truck a few tons of wildly volatile nitroglycerin over a couple hundred miles of bad road that wind through jungles and over mountains, with instant fiery obliteration hanging on each bump and jostle. Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1953 black-and-white-and-gray-all-over classic was censored heavily on its initial American release for its jaundiced eye of big-business exploitation, but the restored first-half setup drags and is marred by the inexplicable misogyny Clouzot, through his protagonist Mario (Yves Montand), heaps on doormat barmaid Linda (Véra Clouzot, the director's wife). Still, the second half serves up taut suspense with a skill and verve that outstrip most of what passes for movie thrills today. As Mario and the other drivers' nerves fray, they must ease their cargo past a rickety mountain switchback and through a rising pond of crude oil, two sequences that make The Wages of Fear worth your hard-earned money all by themselves.