7.2/10
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45 user 38 critic

Human Desire (1954)

A Korean War vet returns to his job as a railroad engineer and becomes involved in an affair with a co-worker's wife following a murder on a train where they meet.

Director:

Fritz Lang

Writers:

Alfred Hayes (screenplay), Émile Zola (novel) (as Emile Zola)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Glenn Ford ... Jeff Warren
Gloria Grahame ... Vicki Buckley
Broderick Crawford ... Carl Buckley
Edgar Buchanan ... Alec Simmons
Kathleen Case Kathleen Case ... Ellen Simmons
Peggy Maley ... Jean
Diane DeLaire Diane DeLaire ... Vera Simmons
Grandon Rhodes ... John Owens
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Storyline

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. Vicki Buckley is the sultry wife of brutish railroad supervisor Carl Buckley, an alcoholic wife beater with a hair trigger temper and penchant for explosive violence. After Buckley is fired for insubordination, he begs Vicki to intercede on his behalf with John Owens, a rich and powerful businessman who Vicki's mother used to keep house for, and whose influence can get him reinstated. When Buckley suspects she has used sexual favors to persuade Owens, he beats Vicki and develops a plan to meet Owen on the train and stabs him to death in a jealous rage in a his compartment. Jeff, who is deadheading after a trip, is on the train and meets Vicki without knowing who she is when Buckley needs her to get him out of the way so he can get back to their compartment without being seen as he is covered in blood. Jeff is a potential... Written by duke1029

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She was born to be bad...to be kissed...to make trouble! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 November 1954 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

The Human Beast See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The "Central National" Railroad was portrayed by equipment and properties of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The locomotive and yard scenes were filmed on the Rock Island Railroad in El Reno, Oklahoma. RI Alco FA-1 #153 had the lettering covered on the side and a red panel added over the low nose herald. The "Yard Office" is actually the building housing the offices for the car repair facility in El Reno. The view after that is in the car repair shed north of the diesel shop in El Reno. The north side of the diesel shop is in the background. No. 717 that almost runs them over is RI Alco S-2 that was assigned to El Reno at least through the mid-60s. See more »

Goofs

The exact same footage of a steam engine powered work train being passed is used in two different parts of the movie. See more »

Quotes

Carl Buckley: It's 6:30 already.
Jean: If you're married, that's late, and if you're single, it's early.
See more »

Connections

Version of Die Bestie im Menschen (1920) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Back on the tracks – not really a Renoir remake
3 August 2007 | by manuel-pestalozziSee all my reviews

It is interesting to compare Jean Renoir's La bête humaine (1938) with Human Desire as they both are based on the same novel by French literature heavyweight Emile Zola. Whereas in Renoir's movie the train and its engineer seem to be wild beasts which have to be kept under control by tight regulations, Lang's engineer is a regular guy who has returned from the Korean war and just yearns to be back on the tracks again. He clearly wants order, regularity and predictability in his life, the very things which seem to destroy the Broderick Crawford character who appears to be the real beast in Human Desire. His counterpart in the Renoir movie is an authority figure in the railroad system who more than anything else wants to keep up a front of respectability.

Gloria Grahame's character is less a femme fatale, like cocky Simone Simon in La bête humaine, than a true victim who has suffered on the hands of different men. She really looks exhausted and seems to have given up on life. In the vain hope that war experience has awakened the beast in the train engineer, she succeeds in rousing some passion in him, but it is not enough for his murdering her husband (who really is a bad character for whom it is hard to feel any pity). The final scene very much looks like her executing a carefully planned suicide-scheme which also definitely brings down her evil husband.

Both movies show that the layer of civilization is pretty thin. Lang's Human Desire distinguishes itself for being a careful probe into the social conditions of the USA in the first part of the 1950ies which is also evident in the careful set design. On several occasions the engineer talks about his war experiences which led him to have new esteem for the merits of order and civilization. It is an important item in Human Desire. Up to you to decide if this makes it a pro or an anti war movie.


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