Fritz Lang (director)
18 February 2021 (released)
25 February 2019
Fritz Lang’s dark psychological thriller delves deep into the human psyche while at the same time staying true to the classic Film Noir elements: the bad guy vs. the good guy… who usually gets screwed over by a femme fatale while being blind towards the love of the good girl… You know how it works.
In this tale, adapted from the 1890 novel by Émile Zola, we have ‘good guy’ Jeff Warren (Glenn Ford) returning from three years fighting in the Korean War and it’s back to his former job as a train engineer alongside buddy Alec Simmons (Edgar Buchanan). Alec once again offers Jeff accommodation in his house as he did before. When Jeff moves in as the boarder he is startled to learn that during his absence in Korea, Alec’s daughter Ellen has grown into a pretty young woman and we detect from her body language that she was smitten by Jeff then and is still smitten by him now. No prices for guessing that initially, Jeff dismisses Ellen’s adoring looks as a teenage crush she never snapped out of.
Meanwhile, the station’s yard supervisor Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford), a near repulsive and hard-drinking individual with a temper to match gets fired for talking back to his superior during a disagreement. Carl is married to the considerably younger Vicki (Gloria Grahame) and we know the dame has trouble written all over her from the moment she appears on the screen. We also learn later on in the film how this unlikely match came about, though at first Vicki seems to have seen some sort of saviour in Carl. Devastated over his dismissal he begs Vicki to go and see a certain John Owens (Grandon Rhodes) whom she has known since her childhood when her mother worked for him as a live-in housekeeper though in one of the film’s more disturbing aspects we find out later just ‘how well’ Vicki has known Owens since she was a young girl… It’s precisely because of what went on between Owens and Vicki in the past that she’s not overtly keen to ask him, an influential railroad customer, to put in a good word on behalf of her husband so he may get his job back. Eventually she gives in and visits Owens though within seconds it becomes crystal clear that Vicki won’t be using the innocent and wide-eyed “Please, can you help my husband?” route to score that promise…
When Vicki returns to hubby a whopping five hours later she has good news for it would seem that Carl has been re-installed. His joy is short-lived, however, because his usual possessive jealousy takes over and he demands to know why it took Vicki five hours to persuade Owens to help – especially given the fact that both Owens and Vicki weren’t in the office when Carl rang after three hours. Angered by Carl’s suspicions and fed up with his whole demeanour the couple have a mighty row during which Carl physically assaults Vicki. He then forces her to write a letter to Owens asking for a secret rendezvous at a certain time in his train compartment. When Vicki nervously knocks on Owen’s door that night, Carl - standing behind her, barges into the compartment and stabs Owens in cold blood. He then takes Vicki’s fake ‘love’ letter (so he can blackmail her to keep quiet about the incident) as well as Owen’s wallet to make it look like a robbery, while a dazed Vicki looks on in shock. Real trouble is a-brewing when it emerges that Jeff, having finished his shift and now hitching a free train ride home, is puffing away on a cigarette in the vestibule close to Owen’s compartment, thus making it impossible for Vicki and especially for Carl – whose jacket is blood-stained – to leave the scene of the murder without being seen by Jeff. Just as well that Vicki knows all about how to seduce a fella and Carl promptly sends his missus to distract Jeff in the nicest possible way while Carl creeps back to his own compartment. Little does he know that the encounter between Jeff and Vicki will have consequences no one could have predicted and not everyone will come out of it alive. If you know your Film Noir then you can guess the outcome…
Brilliantly acted by Gloria Grahame, Glenn Ford and Broderick Crawford, HUMAN DESIRE is as engaging as it is gripping! For the first time ever on Blu-ray (in a Dual Format edition) and with bonus material including Collector’s booklet this is a worthy edition for every Film Noir fan!