The Desperate Hours Reviews
What if Humphry Bogart's Sam Spade tough guy character from the 40s made a few different choices -- if he didn't neatly work his way out of a police jam in "Maltese Falcon" and spent 12 years in a fed pen instead? He might have come out of the pen like this. We love the noir bite when it's downtown, but what about when it invades suburbia?
This is a masterful look at America trying to remake itself into a safe, placid place for families. A place that leaves behind the gritty desperation of the Depression. It's fascinating to see Bogart dropped into Leave It to Beaver -- look what happens when his little brother con starts to refer to the father of the hostage household as "Mr. Hilliard." Bogart can't spit on Piney Creek Woods fast enough.
Bogart was near death when he made this picture -- and his weariness fits well into this portrayal. The swan song of American noir and the antiheroes who couldn't survive in the sunshine brought by GE dishwashers, Ed Sullivan and the Interstate Highway System.
(For the other side of this equation, Fredric March is believable and fascinating as a father trying to figure a way out of this jam. It's too bad modern Hollywood has to make this storyline with such bombast. I don't buy Liam Neeson as Superhero Parent in "Taken." I do believe March every step of the way in this one.)
(PS - The imagemakers selling the suburban ideal still had some trouble getting their image right -- in "Desperate Hours" the 19-year-old daughter is still living at home (?!?!) and dating a squaresville lawyer who looks to be more than 10 years older than her?!?!)
As a noir it's an ace production. Very straight-forward story that keeps your attention and some violent outcomes for the characters involved.
Good tension throughout, and an interesting score, if not a little old fashioned (the use of the Clarinet seems more like a 1940's film. But Wyler was late in his career).
Humphrey Bogart's character might not be his most villainous role, but he's definitely a miscreant and unempathetic personality. This isn't my favorite Wyler film or, for that matter, even my favorite Bogart vehicle, but it's still a good movie with enough suspense and tension to keep you on the edge of your seat.