The Desperate Hours Reviews
As a noir it's an ace production. Very straight-forward story that keeps your attention and some violent outcomes for the characters involved.
Bogart plays Glenn Griffin, who escapes from prison along with his brother, Hal (Dewey Martin, who would go on to play Daniel Boone for four episodes), and their partner in crime, Sam Kobish (Robert Middleton). They take a nice, quiet family of four hostage inside their own home until Griffin's girlfriend can deliver money to them so they can make their escapes. There is, of course, the impetuous son who wants his ol' man to take out the gangsters--of course, the boy does not think of the consequences. There's the teenage (19 is still teenage!) daughter with the boyfriend her father disapproves of. (Probably because he's a full-fledged lawyer.) There's the staid business man and his pretty, industrious wife. Just a normal family, circa 1955. Until the convicts come, that is.
This is not exactly taut drama, I'll admit. Indeed, it's a deeply flawed film. Kobish is a parody--he's clearly at least borderline retarded; he is driven by the concept of pleasure, be it from sex, booze, or killing. I don't exactly expect fraternal devotion, but I spent most of the movie confusing which actor played Bogart's brother. The only way I could see Kobish being part of it was a sort of Lennie-George scenario, and Griffon is no George.
Then again, Kobish is no Lennie. There was no bad in Lennie, and these are not nice guys. These men would really have no qualms about killing the nice, clean-cut Hilliard family. It's only a matter of which member of it will go first. Cindy (Mary Murphy), in an ill-fated rescue attempt from her boyfriend, Chuck (Gig Young, who came to a bad end himself)? Ralphie (Richard Eyer), attempting to act like a grownup and instead acting more like a child than he realizes? Dan (Frederic March), in an attempt to contact the police? Or Ellie (Martha Scott), too pretty to be trapped with these men? Someone will not end well, and while we know the Code makes pretty clear who at least some of them are, it doesn't mean that others will not die.
In the end, Bogart makes his choice. In the end, this is what we all want to do. In that, if in no other way, Glenn Griffon becomes an admirable character.
Humphrey Bogart reprises his role as "tough guy" with his usual skill as the leader of the gangsters. Federic March's talents aren't on display as often as the father of the family, but his performance near the end talking to the sheriff and entering the house was excellent. Robert Middleton developed an interesting character in the feebleminded and boorish Sam Kobish and the supporting performances are fine as well.
This film does have some moments of tension and it is effective in developing a sense of paranoia amongst the gangsters near the end. The story on the whole is nothing profound, though, and makes this a less than interesting crime thriller. However, the ending is very well-developed with tension and the final moments with Bogart and March were gripping. Personally I found "The Petrified Forest" (1936) to be a much more interesting iteration of the "hostage situation" style of film with Bogart as a gangster.
This William Wyler thriller is taut and entertaining, if not exactly memorable. Distinctive for being Humphrey Bogart's last crime movie (and his second to last film) and the only time Bogart and Hollywood legend Fredric March costarted in a film (and the sparks fly brilliantly). It's expertly done, but it lacks anything fantastic that makes it a must-see film. Worth watching, not necessarily worth seeking out.