Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Desperate Hours

Last night, I watched William Wyler's 1955 film The Desperate Hours, a noir-ish drama starring Humphrey Bogart as a cagey escaped con and Fredric March as the prototypical buttoned-down 50s-era head of household:

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The film's plot involves Bogart (Glenn Griffin) escaping from prison along with his brother Hal (played by Dewey Martin) and an oafish brute known simply as Kobish (fabulously portrayed by Robert Middleton). We first meet the three cons as they drive through a suburban neighborhood looking for a place to hole up while awaiting a delivery of cash. Glenn settles on the Hilliard household -- home to Dan Hilliard (March), his wife Eleanor (Martha Scott), daughter Cindy (Mary Murphy) and son Ralph(y) (Richard Eyer) -- after seeing the boy's bicycle casually discarded in the front yard: "I like people with kids, they have too much to lose to get cute."

The film centers on the family's experiences over the course of a day-and-a-half with the rogues. Although there is some terrific acting, the movie is basically plot-driven without making much of any larger point (aside from some gratuituous bashing of the police as hard-hearted politically-calculating rubes). Fortunately, the plot is strong and the film is enjoyable from beginning to end. All in all, The Desperate Hours is a fine evening's entertainment.

Paramount's dvd is bare bones -- just the film with subtitle and scene selection options. The film is presented in its original wide screen aspect ratio and the picture, while not top-notch, was more than serviceable in terms of gray-scale, black levels, etc. The sound is stereo and, to my ears, sounded fine.

Ratings (0-5 in .5 increments):

FILM: 3.5

DVD: 3.0 [Picture - 3.0]; [Sound - 3.0]; [Extras - .5]