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William Wyler
Humphrey Bogart, Frederic March, Arthur Kennedy
Writing Credits:
Joseph Hayes

Three escaped convicts move into and terrorize a suburban household.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 10/17/2023

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Daniel Kremer
• Audio Interview with Director’s Daughter Catherine Wyler
• “Trouble in Suburbia” Featurette
• “The Lonely Man” Featurette
• Trailer
• Lobby Cards Gallery


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The Desperate Hours [Blu-Ray] (1955)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 4, 2023)

Due to cancer, Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart died in early 1957 at the relatively young age of 57. For his second to last film, we go to 1955’s The Desperate Hours.

Along with his brother Hal (Dewey Martin) and fellow inmate Sam Kobish (Robert Middleton), violent criminal Glenn Griffin (Bogart) escapes from prison. On the lam, they wind up in a house located in a posh Indianapolis suburb.

This acts as the residence of the Hilliard family: married couple Dan (Frederic March) and Ellie (Martha Scott) as well as their 19-year old daughter Cindy (Mary Murphy) and their young son Ralph (Richard Eyer). This leads to a tense situation as the escapees hold the family hostage while they attempt to figure out their next steps.

As most movie buffs know, Bogart rose to fame with 1936’s The Petrified Forest. Bogart debuted in features six years earlier, so Forest became far from his first flick, but it turned him into a star.

Like I mentioned, Hours wound up as Bogart’s penultimate film, and it brought him full circle. Forest offered a fairly similar theme, as it revolved around a gangster – played by Bogart – who held innocent folks hostage in a café.

Though a flawed classic, Forest still sets a bar Hours can’t quite match. Nonetheless, the 1955 film becomes a pretty solid thriller in its own right.

Best-known for dramas like his two Oscar Best Picture winners 1942’s Mrs. Miniver and 1946’s Best Years of Our Lives as well as 1953’s romantic Roman Holiday, director William Wyler may seem like an odd choice for a tale like Hours. Indeed, Wyler did lean toward those genres, as two of his other three movies between 1942 and 1955 offered love-oriented dramas too.

However, the third pointed Wyler toward Hours. 1951’s Detective Story leaned in the same direction Wyler would follow here.

Despite Wyler’s relative inexperience with the genre, he does well with Hours. Wyler manages to create a fairly tight piece that leaves a lot of tension involved.

Hours violates some tenets of the “home invasion/kidnapping” genre in that it doesn’t restrict its action solely to the Hilliard house. Granted, I figured we’d see outside events related to the cops, but the movie actually allows various Hilliards to leave the home at times.

That creates an interesting twist, as it opens the movie to unusual opportunities. Though these present potential plot holes, Hours manages to make the scenes seem logical.

As I watched Hours, I couldn’t avoid the temptation to see if I could find clear signs of Bogart’s developing illness. After all, Bogart would pass away a mere 15 months after the movie’s release, so he was already in the throes during the flick’s shoot.

Nonetheless, I failed to discern any obvious signs that disease impacted Bogart’s performance, as he creates a classic gangster with all his usual bite. Granted, Bogart could probably play a role like this in his sleep, but he nonetheless brings power to the part.

The rest of the cast does well, too, though it seems bizarre that the filmmakers hired Gig Young to play Cindy’s boyfriend. 41 at the time – and a paunchy, craggy 41, too – the actor looks far too old to make sense as the teen character’s beau, even if Murphy was actually a slightly older 24.

At 113 minutes, Hours probably goes a little long for the genre. A film like this feels as though it might become a better fit with a tighter running time.

Despite some minor criticisms, though, I largely like Hours. While not quite a classic, it nonetheless delivers an engaging and clever genre effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Desperate Hours appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Shot in the higher-resolution VistaVision format, we got a pretty terrific presentation.

Sharpness worked well throughout the movie. Any instances of softness related to opticals and remained minor at worst.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to become an issue, and grain felt light but natural.

Blacks appeared deep and dense, while shadows looked smooth and clear. Contrast fared well and the black and white elements showed an appealing silvery sheen. The film consistently looked great.

Though not as good, the movie’s LPCM monaural soundtrack appeared perfectly acceptable for its age. Speech occasionally betrayed a little edginess, but the lines generally came across as accurately rendered.

Music and effects worked in similar ways, as they showed decent accuracy and lacked much distortion. Nothing here excelled, but the audio seemed satisfactory for the material and vintage.

When we shift to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from film historian Daniel Kremer. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion of the source and its path to the screen, themes and genre domains, sets and locations, cinematic techniques, production topics and cast and crew, with an emphasis on director William Wyler.

Though technically “scene-specific”, Kremer refers to what we see infrequently. As such, one should expect this commentary to act more as an audio essay.

And that works fine for me, as the track becomes fairly informative. Though not the most organized discussion – we hop around from one area to another a lot – Kremer gives us plenty of useful insights along the way.

Another audio-only extra comes from an Interview with Director’s Daughter Catherine Wyler. She sits for an 11-minute, 47-second chat.

Wyler discusses some production elements as well as her memories of the shoot and her father. She offers a nice collection of notes.

Trouble in Suburbia goes for 38 minutes, 51 seconds. It brings an “appreciation” from associate film professor José Arroyo.

This reel tells us about cast/crew, some production elements, additional versions of the story, and Arroyo’s thoughts on the film. Some of this repeats from the commentary, but Arroyo nonetheless offers a pretty good take on the topics.

With The Lonely Man, we find a 14-minute, 54-second “visual essay”. The program offers notes from Melbourne Cinémathèque co-curator Eloise Ross.

During this piece, Ross looks at characters and themes as well as genre connections. Ross provides useful interpretation.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a lobby card gallery with 16 images. It becomes a decent compilation.

At 113 minutes, I cannot help but think The Desperate Hours might fare better at a tighter running time. Nonetheless, I like the movie a lot, as Humphrey Bogart abets a fairly engaging thriller. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, era-appropriate audio and a mix of bonus features. Hours winds up as an above-average genre flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
2 3:
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