43 user 22 critic

Desperate (1947)

Approved | | Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller | 9 May 1947 (USA)
A young married couple flee both police and a gangster out for revenge.



(screenplay), (additional dialogue) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Walt Radak
Pete Lavitch - Private Eye
William Challee ...
Det. Lt. Louie Ferrari (as Jason Robards)
Freddie Steele ...
Shorty Abbott
Lee Frederick ...
Joe Daly
Paul E. Burns ...
Uncle Jan
Ilka Grüning ...
Aunt Klara (as Ilka Gruning)


When mobster Walt Radak tries to trick independent trucker Steve Randall into transporting stolen furs, Steve alerts the police, and Walt's young brother Al is caught and held for a cop-killing. When ruthless Radak tries to extort Steve's help in clearing Al, Steve and his young wife flee for their lives, only to find that the police are also in pursuit. With every man's hand against them, Steve and Anne must repeatedly abandon their temporary refuges. Finally, one midnight, the showdown... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


MURDER at any moment! SUSPENSE... in every step!!!


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 May 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Desesperado  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Raymond Burr's fourth film role. He became a film noir regular, usually playing a heavy. See more »


Ferrari and another policeman are right behind Steve when he re-enters the apartment house, but they're nowhere to be seen until after the shootout is over. See more »


Det. Lt. Louie Ferrari: Out of every seven guys who go to the chair, six go yelling, "I'm innocent!"
See more »

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User Reviews

Not as consistent as I would have liked but still tough and tense at turns
20 June 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Steve Randall is a truck driver looking forward to a romantic night in with his new wife after four months of marriage. However when he gets a call for a last minute transit job for the fee of $50 he can't say no. When he gets to the job he finds that he is working for Walt Radak and the cargo is actually goods being stolen from a warehouse. Alerting a passing police officer sees the officer get shot and Radak's younger brother caught by the cops; to get him out Radak tells Steve to go to the police and confess that he forced the kid to do the job for him, either that or Radak's boys will pay a visit to Steve's wife. Instead of going to the cops though, Randall alerts his wife and flees the city with both the criminals (helped by ex-PI Lavitch) and the police (in the shape of Det Lt Ferrari).

This film opens with a light tone that does little to prepare you for how quickly it all goes wrong for Steve and it is not long before he is fleeing the mob and the police. However, although it never settles back into that light tone, it does take the foot off the gas several times and produces a film that is a series of good moments rather than being a constantly taut thriller. Having said that though, the strong moments more than make up for the dips where the film develops the story and plays on the emotions of the characters – when this is tough, it is excellent and very much captures what made the "more is less" spirit of 40's/50's crime noirs so enjoyable. Steve's initial beating is played out in a dark room with a swinging lampshade; the final standoff takes place in a stairwell that is all shadows and banister; while the ambivalence of the cops and criminals make for an interesting set up.

Although the characters are not taken as deep as noir would normally require (Steve is too clean cut and not enough is made of the police using Steve as bait) the characters are still tough. Brodie is not great but does well enough despite being rather too nice for the lead role. Long is OK and luckily the film gives her limited time and concentrates on the dark rather than the dame. Burr is tremendously menacing – not a crime lord but a tough hood who remains sane throughout and is all the more menacing for being out of the picture until the end. Robards is a bit too whimsical where I would have preferred him to be cynical and uncaring, but he was still good. Support is also good from Fowley, Challee and others.

Overall this would have been a bit better if it had been a bit darker in terms of action and character as well as being more consistent in its tension but, despite what could have been, it is still enjoyably tense and tough and features good performances and some typically noir use of darkness and light in the cinematography.

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