Human Desire

Rated 2.0

During the three decades he worked in Hollywood, German expatriate filmmaker Fritz Lang produced some enduring films, but he also turned out his share of program-filling dreck. His 1954 film noir Human Desire should belong in the former category (it’s an Americanization of Émile Zola’s La Bête Humaine, and came right after Lang’s best American film, The Big Heat), but it actually belongs alongside his lesser efforts. Glenn Ford is unconvincing as Jeff Warren, a war veteran returning to his small-town train engineer job, but quickly embroiled in a murder cover-up involving his violent boss (Broderick Crawford) and his scheming wife (Gloria Grahame). The actors are all well-cast, and Burnett Guffey’s cinematography is excellent as usual, but Human Desire goes tragically limp after a promising start. Alfred Hayes’ screenplay is bland and directionless, and Lang’s direction is amateurish at best.