The Wages of Fear (1953)

I actually saw William Friedkin’s remake, Sorcerer, before this a number of years ago; it was when Friedkin was touring a restored version of his film with the first half-hour reinstated after having been cut on the film’s first release. Wages lost 20-odd minutes too on its original American release, though not for pacing but political reasons; after all, American audiences couldn’t possibly be allowed to witness American businesses acting like complete scumbags. Cos this is, essentially, what the oil company does in this film: they lord it over the shitty South American town they’ve established themselves at, and when something goes wrong at the oil well it’s the locals who suffer, and the locals who’ll have to risk their lives for the damage to be undone… and the locals will do it cos it’s not like they have much other option; the only other way out is by air and no one can afford the fare out. Of course, the $2000 Southern Oil are offering to transport truckloads of nitroglycerine  is a great temptation, so it becomes a matter of who will think the obscene risks are worth it… For me, I suspect that having seen Sorcerer long before seeing its original may have lessened its impact for me somewhat (I thought Sorcerer was pretty good in its own right, and it now bears favourable comparison to Clouzot’s film), and certainly the DVD quality did… if I’m reading the subtitle at the end right, Optimum sourced their print from what would’ve been an early 90s laserdisc master from Criterion’s old parent company Voyager, who clearly didn’t have a good print to start with and the NTSC>PAL transfer does it no favours at all. In spite of all of which, an obviously extremely good film (it appears on quite a number of the lists at ICheckMovies, and with some good reason), one which I should never have taken so long to get around to watching (though for future reference and re-watching purposes I may invest in the buffed-up Criterion disc)…

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