In the South American jungle supplies of nitroglycerin are needed at a remote oil field. The oil company pays four men to deliver the supplies in two trucks. A tense rivalry develops between the two sets of drivers and on the rough remote roads the slightest jolt can result in death. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
An unforgettable bit of existentialism on exposed celluloid
Whoever it may be to rightly claim that he invented the action thriller genre (Méliès, I suppose), Henri-Georges Clouzot's "Le salaire de la peur" is an indispensable milestone on the exciting route to the best films of that kind in the 70's, 80's and nowadays. In its tenseness, as symbolized by the danger of explosion of the lorries' loads, it has hardly been surpassed.
The plot is perfectly worked out from start to end, the leading players act in some of their best parts ever, the (almost) absence of music supports the brutal realism and the consequent choice of authentic outdoor settings contributed a lot to the film's deserved success. Historically, it ranges between neorealismo and nouvelle vague, and yet it is its pure action and suspense that make it worth watching for younger audiences who wouldn't go in for just the artistic way. - Only flaw I can see is the curious, rather artificial change in Vanel's character which has no comprehensible motivation, at least for me whenever I see it.
Apart from that, Clouzot's wife Véra (also well-known from his "Les diaboliques") plays to the "most breathtaking angles" gallery when she bows down to scrub the floor of Dario Moreno's gin joint. It's a man's world after all and there are male perspectives on human survival only. Well, it's existentialism, mates. Altogether, the black and white photography is gripping. The gun scene between Lulli and Vanel is one of the best montages in film history, and there is more excellent editing in "Salaire" (including the finale) that completely fits the hot atmosphere.
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