Mae Doyle comes back to her hometown a cynical woman. Her brother Joe fears that his love, fish cannery worker Peggy, may wind up like Mae. Mae marries Jerry and has a baby; she is happy but restless, drawn to Jerry's friend Earl.
British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
Jeff Warren, a Korean War vet just returning to his railroad engineer's job, boards at the home of co-worker Alec Simmons and is charmed by Alec's beautiful daughter. He becomes attracted immediately to Vicki Buckley, the sultry wife of brutish railroad supervisor Carl Buckley, an alcoholic wife beater with a hair trigger temper and penchant for explosive violence. Jeff becomes reluctantly drawn into a sordid affair by the compulsively seductive Vicki. After Buckley is fired for insubordination, he begs her to intercede on his behalf with John Owens, a rich and powerful businessman whose influence can get him reinstated. When Buckley suspects she has used sexual favors to persuade Owens, he stabs him to death in a jealous rage in a railroad compartment. Jeff, a potential witness to the homicide, becomes an accessory after the fact. Written by
Marlon Brando refused the role of Jeff Warren, saying "I cannot believe that the man who gave us the über dark Mabuse, the pathetic child murderer in M (1931) and the futuristic look at society, Metropolis (1927), would stoop to hustling such crap." See more »
The closing sequence shows the famous "Trenton Makes, The World Takes" bridge over the Delaware River and the NJ State Capitol out the side window of the locomotive over Jeff Warren's shoulder, meaning the train is headed south on the four-track Pennsylvania Railroad Northeast Corridor. The scene cuts to the front window and the train is on a single-line track in farmland passing a track gang. After Glen waves to the workers, the scene cuts back to a forward view of a three-track railroad passing an opposing steam train that was not visible in the previous shot. See more »
[Dressing for a date]
Zip me up will you, Carl?
You dames, you spend more time gettin' dressed...
Have to! It's much better to have good looks than brains because most of the men I know can see much better than they can think.
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Lang's gloomy remake of Renoir's "La bete humaine"
"Human Desire" is NOT one of Fritz Lang's masterpieces. Though it has its moments, it ultimately comes off as a second-rate work. A remake of Jean Renoir's 1938 "La bete Humaine" starring Jean Gabin, "Human Desire" is less successful than Renoir's adaptation of the Zola novel, but when all things considered, it is not bad, and is filled with some interesting geometric images & visuals. The film turns out to be gloomy, often bleak melodrama that has a striking affinity with Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" in its plot, dealing with a married woman (Gloria Grahame) trying to get rid of her bland husband (Broderick Crawford) through the help of a train engineer (Glenn Ford). If you stop concentrating on the melodramatic plot and focus on Lang's lovely architectural compositions, "Human Desire" becomes quite engrossing picture, on par with "The Big Heat", Lang's previous film noir with Grahame & Ford. From the first image to the last, the scenes of railroad tracks are masterfully handled: we see a series of precise lines and converging tracks moving forward. Moreover, Grahame and Crawford's rooms in their working class house are characterized by a series of squares, boxes, rectangles to conjure up a nightmarish vision of fate and destiny.
Also, it is worth noting that in the same house we see the appearance of television for the first time in Lang's films. Lang will later explore the dangers of media manipulation in his last two American films: "While the City Sleeps" and "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt".
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