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#057. The Cost of Employment

Everyone has a price. There are no two ways about it. How much money would be enough for you to give up your dignity? Your life? Many of us already have a price for our time. A salary is not necessarily a representation of a person’s power or influence, but instead a measure of how much their time is worth. We easily give up 40+ hours a week for money, even if we enjoy what we do for a living. But what if you came along a job that was so lucrative you couldn’t pass it up? What if, by doing this one job, your financial worries would be over? What if you could retire to a relaxing and calm life of early retirement with a single job? Would you do it? Now, what if this job meant almost certain peril to your physical being? You possibly wouldn’t be around to spend the money, so would you still do it? This week’s two films cover some high-paying jobs at the risk of losing one’s own life.

The Wages of FearThe Wages of Fear
Year: 1953
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

Often, when in poverty, the lure of a big, fat paycheck can motivate someone to take a job that no sane person ever would. The desperation required to trade in their personal safety for a chance of getting out of the gutter is pretty high. These jobs are usually prefaced with the statement, “If you’re uncomfortable doing this, there’s still time to back out,” at which point very few actually do. “Hazard Pay” is a real thing that makes some professions well paid due to the risk employees take when performing their duties. Oil rig workers, Alaskan crab fishermen, logging truck drivers, all are very well compensated for their work because they are constantly cheating death while on the clock. And yet, if the job was dangerous enough and only a one-time deal, would you do it?

The place: a South American oil field. The problem: an out of control fire is threatening the well from which it is spewing. The solution: blow out the fire with a large nitroglycerin explosion. The catch: the nitroglycerin needs to be transported from a town across a dangerous mountain pass. With the carrot of a large sum of money dangled in front of some potential truck drivers, the oil company hires four men to drive two trucks with no shock absorbers and loaded to the gills with nitroglycerin up to the raging fire. Danger lurks at every turn as the two trucks compete against each other to see who can get there first. After all, the payment is only for one load of nitroglycerin and there are enough trucks for two. With two men per vehicle, one drives and one remains scared for the both of them.

The Treasure of the Sierra MadreThe Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Year: 1948
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

Why do people play the lottery? The idea of getting to strike it rich with just a simple ticket is certainly alluring. If it is played smartly, it is barely considered gambling, but oftentimes the payout never shows. Similarly, a gold rush lies under the same principle. While the effort may be a little more, the payout is still large enough to justify going out in the wilderness to try and strike it rich. And yet, finding the gold is merely the easiest part. Many dangers exist when mining for the ore, let alone protecting your claim from those who would want to steal it from you. Of those who went out in search of this buried treasure, few came back alive and fewer came back rich. With the odds stacked against you, would you venture out to find your fortune in the hills?

As in The Wages of Fear, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre focuses on some men who are unemployed, but looking to land a job big enough that they won’t have to work again. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Howard) come across an old prospector by the name of Howard (Walter Huston) and convince him to let them join in his quest to find gold in the mountains of Mexico. When they finally come across a vein of gold, not only do they have to protect it from some bandits (who don’t have to show you any stinking badges, by the way), but from each other as a fortune split three ways is far less than a fortune held by only one person. Can they survive long enough to get the gold out of the ground, or will their efforts lead them to thier deaths?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 jobs to die for

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One response to “#057. The Cost of Employment

  1. Pingback: End of Act Two | Cinema Connections

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