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The Desperate Hours (1955)

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March, more...
Director: William Wyler, William Wyler
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Paramount
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 112 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English
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Synopsis
Based on the novel and play by Joseph Hayes, which in turn was inspired by an actual event, The Desperate Hours is the prototypical "family-trapped-by-criminals" drama. Escaped convicts Humphrey Bogart, Robert Middleton and Dewey Martin, seeking an appropriate hideout until they can make contact with their money supply, deliberately choose the suburban home of Fredric March and his family. The cold-blooded Bogart wants no trouble with the police, and he knows he can cower a family with children into cooperating with him. The convict orders March, his wife Martha Scott, and their children Richard Eyer and Mary Murphy, to go about their normal activities so as not to arouse suspicion. Young Eyer, upset that March won't lift a hand against Bogart, assumes that his father is a coward. The authorities are alerted when March, at Bogart's behest, draws money for the convict's getaway from the bank. Pushed to the breaking point, March begins subtly turning the tables on the convicts. Bogart's character in Desperate Hours was originally written for a much younger man, which explains why Paul Newman was able to play the part in the original Broadway production. The film was slated to co-star Bogart with his old pal Spencer Tracy, but this plan fell through when the two actors couldn't agree on who would get top billing. Desperate Hours was remade in 1991 with Mickey Rourke in the Bogart role. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Somewhat Desperate Hours by RRiutta March 4, 2005 - 4:50 PM PST
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1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
This movie, set in mid-century Indianapolis, allowed the mores of its times to overpower the dark shadow cast by its central attempt to explore the morality of man and its relation to class and character.
The script feinted at digging deep into the American class divide, but only a few stinging jabs got past, usually through the mouth of Humphrey Bogart. His character knew he was the smartest. And his character had a gun.
But a clean and safe suburbia will expel the underworld, like the kitchen light sending cockroaches scurrying. And the one who's flicking the light has a bigger gun.
Bogart managed to portray a sympathetic sociopath. He could do "desperate" standing on his head--lowlifes and anti-authority figures were his specialty. Although he seemed weary in this role, he rarely coasted. His character sneered in contempt at luxury and its soft result. His eyes darted as his plans slowly dissolved, forcing him to fall back to reassess, regroup, and forge forward.
Bogart was selling and selling, but without a little help, I wasn't ready to buy. His supporting characters had moments but they were not able to maintain a tension I would call "desperate." Maybe "pretty difficult" would fit better.
This film could have also benefited from some close-ups. The camera never moved in close where we could see the lines and the tension, the hate and the lust. There was a shot, however, that caught Bogey in all his watery, red-eyed bleariness. Maybe Bogart's real despair was off-screen?
This movie had moments of greatness that hint at what could have been. The lighting artfully conveyed the safety and comfort of home and its contrast with the dark and dangerous world outside. A ride out into the country was extremely tense and brought a sense of tragedy that never left the movie.
As a snapshot of U.S. suburban values, circa 1955, this movie is interesting and well-made. The fact that its central crime, home invasion, became a trend some 40 years later is alone worth a look. The other reason would be Mr. Bogart.




GreenCine Member Rating
12345678910

(Average 6.74)
23 Votes
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Kid Friendly Classics
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Old [gasp] movies, child-approved, without the crassness, vulgarity, and sexual innuendo Hollywood seems to insist on putting in kid's movies.
Brockton

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