Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Edgar Buchanan, Kathleen Case, Peggy Maley, Diane DeLaire, Grandon Rhodes
Written by: Alfred Hayes, based on a novel by Emile Zola
Directed by: Fritz Lang
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 91
Date: 08/05/1954
IMDB

Human Desire (1954)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Railroaded

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Made on the heels of The Big Heat (1953) with the same cast, Fritz Lang's Human Desire (1954) never caught on in quite the same way, perhaps because its ending doesn't seem to carry the same kind of punch; it sort of winds down, rather than exploding.

Glenn Ford plays Jeff Warren, a cheerful Korean War veteran who returns to his small town and his job as a railroad engineer. The pretty daughter in his boarding house throws herself at him, and it looks like life is going to be pretty simple for him. Unfortunately, his boss Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford) has married a sultry, no-good dame, Vicki (Gloria Grahame), who unwillingly helps her jealous, foul-tempered husband pull off a murder on a train.

She's sent to distract innocent bystander Jeff, and the distraction ends with an unexpected kiss. Jeff is hooked, and thus begins an affair and possibly another murder.

Perhaps the trouble with this one begins with the fact that it was based on an Emile Zola novel; literary snobs probably wanted a movie that was a little more highfalutin, and fans of tough, dark crime movies probably wanted something a little tougher and meaner. (Jean Renoir also adapted the novel into his 1938 film La bĂȘte humaine.)

Regardless, it's still a superb, highly polished example of Lang's craft.

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