The Desperate Hours

Watch The Desperate Hours

  • Approved
  • 1955
  • 1 hr 52 min
  • 7.5  (10,530)

"The Desperate Hours," a thrilling crime-drama directed by William Wyler in 1955, is set in an idyllic suburban home in a fictional city in Indiana. The plot follows the Hilliard family, who fall prey to a gang of three escaped convicts, led by the charismatic, sharp-witted, and vicious Glenn Griffin (Humphrey Bogart). The Hilliard patriarch, Dan Hilliard (Fredric March), an average suburban businessman, and his family become the hostages of the convicts who plan to wait for a certain sum of ransom money to arrive. In the meantime, tensions rise, as the family and the criminals engage in a grueling, psychological game of wits, where the slightest error could spell doom.

The character of Glenn Griffin, played to perfection by Humphrey Bogart, is the undeniable star of "The Desperate Hours." The film, in fact, marked a departure from many of Bogart's typical gangster roles, and highlighted his range as an actor. The menacing and manipulative Glenn is a complex character, whose intelligence and charm are only matched by his ruthless violence. His complex relationship with his two accomplices, the younger Albert and the unstable Sam, adds an extra dimension to the already intense plot. The Hilliard family, on the other hand, is the perfect contrast to the conniving convicts. They present the picture of the wholesome American family, which is frequently featured in the film noir genre as the picture of security and innocence. However, the Hilliards are not immune to the convicts' brutality, and the film explores the impact that the crisis has on each of them.

"The Desperate Hours" also stands out for its stunning cinematography, where the themes of the film are mirrored in its visual language. Wyler's use of shadow and light, especially in the night scenes, creates an eerie, oppressive atmosphere that reflects the sense of confinement that the characters feel. The home where the film takes place doubles as a prison where hostages and captors alike are trapped, and the space is used to great effect to create a sense of claustrophobia. The tension is further amplified by the haunting film score by Franz Waxman, which underscores the psychological battle between the Hilliards and the convicts.

A major theme of the film is the breakdown of societal norms in times of extreme crisis. The Hilliard family, who are attempting to maintain their sense of dignity and honor in the face of adversity, are far from perfect as they reveal secrets to each other and make desperate decisions. More significantly, "The Desperate Hours" offers a scathing critique of the media and sensationalism, as the media circus that surrounds the kidnapping becomes a story in itself. Reporters and onlookers alike treat the crisis as a spectator sport, resulting in the fanning of tensions and the danger of the situation escalating. The film offers commentary on the danger of allowing the media to feed into and fuel volatile situations.

Overall, "The Desperate Hours" is a tense and riveting drama, with powerful performances by the lead actors, particularly by Bogart. The film's exploration of the human psyche in times of crisis, the breakdown of societal mores, and the role of the media remains as relevant today as it was over half a century ago. The movie fails to be a masterpiece but remains a solid addition to the classic Hollywood thriller genre, with a strong cast and impressive technical execution.

The Desperate Hours is a 1955 crime movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 52 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.5.

The Desperate Hours
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The Desperate Hours is available to watch free on The Roku Channel Free. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube VOD. Some platforms allow you to rent The Desperate Hours for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 52 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.5  (10,530)