William Friedkin takes Georges Arnaud’s 1950 novel Le salaire de la peur—which received its first filmic interpretation in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic palm-sweater The Wages of Fear—and transforms it into a blood-and-guts opera of existential delirium. The set-up is familiar: four desperate men with nothing to lose—led by Roy Scheider’s on-the-lam Jersey mobster—take on a seemingly doomed mission when they agree to transport two trucks full of highly explosive nitroglycerin through the perilous South American jungle. What Friedkin brings to the table is a raw, visceral immediacy—you can practically feel the muck, sweat, and grime. As the film tilts into full-blown expressionism in its final act, a meaning for the much-puzzled-over title (a reference to the name of one of the trucks) emerges: there is an almost supernatural force of cosmic nihilism at work here. Tangerine Dream’s mesmerizing electronic score only adds to the intensity.