Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


HUMAN DESIRE (1954). Director: Fritz Lang.

Vicki Buckley (Gloria Grahame) is married to the rather bestial and jealous Carl (Broderick Crawford) who forces her to accompany him when he plans to murder one of her alleged lovers. Into this unpleasant mix comes railroad engineer Jeff Warren (Glenn Ford), who falls for Vicki and whom she hopes will help her get out of the trap that her marriage has become. The opening with the train zooming along is excellent, and everything that follows certainly holds the attention, but a big problem with the picture is that it has no real climax. Brockerick is terrific; Ford gives one of his better performances; and Grahame has her moments as the femme fatale but she's uneven and never altogether convincing. Well-directed by Lang and beautifully photographed by Burnett Guffey. Despite her somewhat cold nature, it's hard not to see Vicki in part as a victim, but the film doesn't encourage the audience to feel much sympathy for her. Kathleen Case as the "good girl" in the story is just as sexy as the bad girl, if not more so. Her first appearance, filling out her sweater, makes you wonder why Warren even bothered with Vicki. Inspired by a novel by Emile Zola.

Verdict: Compelling if imperfect. ***.


Colin said...

I like this film a lot and I'm actually a bit disappointed and puzzled that it doesn't look like it's going to make it onto either of the two forthcoming noir sets from Sony - an odd omission.

I'm probably more forgiving of Gloria Grahame than you Bill, I think she's wonderful in just about everything I've seen her in. A very balanced review though.

William said...

Thanks for your comments, Colin. I actually like Grahame a lot, and she certainly wasn't bad in this film. She had a unique quality, didn't she? -- William