For Reel

The Desperate Hours (1955)
October 26, 2016, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Wyler
4 Stars
the-desperate-hoursHumphrey Bogart’s screen career is nicely bookended by his first great success as a gangster in The Petrified Forest and as a similar villain in his penultimate film The Desperate Hours. His casting in the latter project was an intriguing choice—a thirty-year-old Paul Newman had played the role on Broadway, but the significantly older Bogart served as a more fitting adversary to the man of the house played by Fredric March. The drama unfolds as Bogart and two cronies invade a family’s suburban home and take them hostage. March, as the patriarch, does what he can to give the maximum resistance without serious consequences—it would be too easy to say that Bogart’s Glenn Griffin develops an admiration for him, but rather March’s moments of defiance develop a begrudging respect between the two. In many ways, this is March’s film, and therefore a film about the anxieties of a man losing control in his home—his authority challenged, March spends the film doing what he can to protect his wife and children and control the space to the best of his ability, but finds himself regularly foiled. Director William Wyler’s favoring of long takes in deep focus does well to capitalize on the ordinariness of the setting—Bogart’s arrival in the film, in particular, is not befit of a star of his type, rather a sudden, unspectacular shot in which Wyler makes an admirable choice by not capitalizing on Bogart’s stardom through close-ups, rather preserving the immediacy of the action.

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