Human Desire is one of the most unpleasant film noirs in the genre. But in case of this picture, it’s rather a well-deserved compliment for its hot-edginess and hardboiled melodramatic sensations. Human desire aspires to be a hard-hitting, gutsy crime picture that shows not only a story of romance bound to fail from the start, but also makes a series of aggressive comments on the topic of alcoholism and pathology in families.

When Jeff Warren (Glenn Ford) returns home after serving his time in Korea, his only dream is to return back to his steady job as a train engineer. Unfortunately, on his way he meets a vulgar, abusive Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford). The man is in desperate need of an intervention in order to keep his job, and begs his beautiful wife Vicki (Gloria Grahame) to stand by him during the meeting with his boss. However, due to his alcohol addiction and distorted mind, Carl thinks that she met with Owens so as to flirt with him. On the train back Carl kills the man, and Jeff – who was very close to the whole action – bumps into Vicky and quickly develops feelings for her. She, on the other hand, wants to take advantage of his generosity. Being abused by her raging husband, she finds solace in the arms of a stranger. However, in a small city every rumor spreads faster than the wind. Carl starts drinking more and more, and blackmails Vicky with a letter into staying with him for as long as they’ll live. Vicky soon comes up with a devilish plan to get rid of her disgraceful hubby…

The film owes much to the mightily effective and spellbinding photography. It portrays not only America’s working class, but also many in-train sequences, which give the film a much-deserved claustrophobic feel. The intensity of the atmosphere goes through the roof as the characters argue and fight inside the small compartments, making their disputes even more dramatic and realistic than they are. Human Desire may not be Fritz Lang’s masterpiece, but it surely deserves a view, for it is a violently sombre tale about regular people, who bring about their own demise through a series of tragic misunderstandings.


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