why was the film censored in the United States?

Masterpiece by Henri-Georges Clouzot, The Wages of Fear, broadcast this Monday on Arte at 8.50 p.m., was a worldwide success. But not at any price. In the United States, the authorities demanded that the film be censored.

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In Las Piedras, a town in Central America, precisely a sort of border town in Guatemala, there is a lack of work. Under the sun, everyone drowns their boredom in alcohol. Not far from there, the SOC, an American oil company, makes hiring rain and shine. One day, she asks for four volunteers to drive two trucks loaded with nitroglycerine to blow out the fire of a well located 500 kilometers away. For $2,000, a huge sum, Mario (Yves Montand whom Philippe Bouvard recently described as “wicked”), Jo (Charles Vanel), Luigi (Folco Lulli) and Bimba (Peter van Eyck) embark on this journey at the risk of their lives. Because this high-flying mission that could turn into a one-way trip…

The Wages of Fear : a huge success for Henri-Georges Clouzot

Four characters on the edge of the abyss, a flow of cold sweats, sparkling dialogues, splendid photography. An intense and violent work directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, at the height of his art. As proof, the director of Raven will receive the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1953, the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in Berlin in 1953 and the Best Film at the Bafta Awards in 1955. Just that! The Wages of Fear also received international critical acclaim upon its original release. For example, the reviewer of the New York Times will declare at the release of the film: “The excitement [au sujet du film] stems entirely from the awareness of nitroglycerin and its delicate, breathless handling. You sit there waiting for the [salle de cinéma] explode. “.

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A good review but an intransigent censorship

But a shadow will somewhat tarnish this deserved success. Indeed, in the United States, the film was cut during editing when it was released in 1955. And not just a little because the film lost about 35 minutes of its initial length! In particular the cut of several scenes giving a negative image of the oil firm SOC that we see in the film. The film was quite simply accused of anti-Americanism… As for Guatemala, where the story is supposed to take place, the film was purely and simply banned!

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