Thursday, February 18, 2016

What We've Been Watching: The Wages of Fear, Mr. Holmes

The Wages of Fear (1953)

Four men, desperate to escape a South American village, agree to drive trucks of nitroglycerin over mountain passes to where they are needed to stop an oil fire. At its heart this is both a character study and a nonstop thriller. My heart was in my mouth for a good portion of the film.

Picking this up on a friend's recommendation, I was completely surprised by my husband's enthusiastic, "I remember watching that when I was a kid! What boy doesn't love guys driving nitroglycerin over mountain passes!" He saw it in the days when the movie was dubbed and shown on Saturday afternoon.

These days, of course, we get the meticulously restored version with 21 minutes added back in and all en Fran├žais with captions. Except where they were speaking English or Italian. Those 21 minutes probably removed some jokes or rhetoric which were considered anti-American in 1953. These days we are well used to taking it on the chin, so back in they went. Unfortunately, they served to slow down the story ... a lot.

As I said, the heart of the movie is sound suspense and I was on the edge of my seat. Just let the long, slow beginning wash over you as a preamble. You won't be sorry.

Mr. Holmes (2015)

This was recommended by two very different friends and so we gave it a shot. It turned out that we liked it very much and even more so the next day when we kept bringing it up to each other.

Sherlock Holmes is very aged, living in Suffolk and keeping bees (as he sometimes mentioned wanting to do in the stories), coping with losing his memory, and forging an unexpected friendship with the young son of his housekeeper. The movie accompanies the current day with two other strands of remembered story. One is recent involving a trip to Japan. The other is older and involves Holmes' last case. The way all three strands are woven together forms a lovely final lesson in Holmes' life (I would argue that this itself is Holmes solving his last case).

It is a quiet, life affirming movie with several mysteries that kept us rapt the entire time. Well worth seeing.


  1. Have you ever seen the 70's remake of Wages of Fear? Sorcerer with Roy Scheider?