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.
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 »
When we see John Owens's wallet while Carl is loading incriminating items into the furnace, the initials on it are "DP". 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.
See more »
Despite Lang's signature, I must admit I have been a bit let down. I say "a bit" because "Human Desire" is not a bad film in itself. Simply, it somewhat pales beside its admirable model, Jean Renoir's "La Bête humaine".
Here are a few shortcomings ( which will appear so only if we have seen the two versions ) : -To begin with, why this happy end, at least concerning Warren ( Lantier's American counterpart) ? It is downright unfaithful both to Zola's naturalism and Renoir's "poetic determinism".
More in keeping with the source material it was a commendable idea to
make Warren a Korea War veteran ( war CAN unsettle individuals) but the character basically remains an all-American good guy erring a little.And if to err is "human" then it doesn't at all make the character a "human beast". - Glenn Ford's interpretation is undistiguished compared to Jean Gabin's formidable presence in the former film. - Something equally amazing is choosing usually picturesque Edgar Buchanan to replace Carette and give him nothing to do ! No one can forget Carette's gift of the gab and drawling accent hiding a deep feeling of helpless sympathy. Whoever will remember Edgar Buchanan in this dull part ? [ sigh of helpless sympathy ! ]
There are good points, however, in this film, notably the convincing portrayal of the "cursed couple" by always reliable Gloria Grahame and Broderick Crawford as well as the opening sequences of tracks,switches, metallic bridges... with no other sounds than the clanking of wheels ,conjuring up ( this time like in Renoir's "Human Beast" )the inexorable progress of fate.
On the whole I didn't really dislike "Human Desire" but I found it less atmospheric, more matter of fact than the original. In other words, I wish I hadn't seen "La Bête humaine"...yet.
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