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Author Topic: La Bete Humaine (1938), remade as Human Desire (1954)  (Read 1813 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: October 24, 2012, 12:48:58 AM »

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047101/

Human Desire (1954)

POT SYNOPSIS: A railroad engineer (Glenn Ford) returns to his job after fighting in the Korean War, and plans to settle down to a nice quiet life. But it turns out that while he was gone,  an old fat co-worker of his (Broderick Crawford) has married a babe (Gloria Grahame) and things don't go exactly as planned....


CAST, courtesy of imdb


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

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There are 3 previous posts on this movie in from the Film Noir Discussion Thread, beginning here http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg144619#msg144619


cigar joe:
Human Desire (1954) directed by Fritz Lang with Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, and Edgar Buchanan, good noir with some outstanding railroad footage, its not "The Narrow Margin" though, its more a film who's emphasis is about Desire & Desperation than anything else, Gloria Grahame is wonderful as femme fatale slut Vicky who slowly reveals her true character throughout the course of the film. 7/10


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dave jenkins:

You should check out Jean Renoir's original, it's better.

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titoli:
Maybe. But I didn't like either one.

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« Last Edit: August 30, 2017, 04:08:46 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2012, 01:40:05 AM »

HUMAN DESIRE is an outstanding noir, gets a 9/10 in my book



-- The performances here are all great. My only minor complaint on the movie: there are 2 scenes with Kathleen Case -- who plays Ellen Simmons, these are pretty serious scenes, where she is clearly trying all she can not to smile, and is rather unsuccessful at it.

--- The train footage is awesome. (rear projections irritate me more than anything in all of cinema, but what can you do...) There's an interesting contrast between the beautiful exteriors taken of the moving train, usually by day -- totally un-noir like --  and the nefarious noir-like scenes, many

--- The dvd has 2 bonus features: the theatrical trailer, and a 9-minute segment of Emily Mortimer discussing the movie. of which take place at night

SPOILER ALERT TILL END OF POST


-- Finally, my main focus is on the ending. It's a pretty unusual ending, having Vicki killed. Here's why: I don't think the movie intends to portray Vicki as really being a villain. Her story does keep changing about whether or not she was adulterous before she met Jeff, but I think she really was raped by that guy Owens. So she certainly isn't any more of a bad person than is Jeff (Jeff is an aduleterer too). And since Jeff doesn't die at the end, I don't believe Vicki had to die for Production Code reasons: cuz Jeff committed the same sins Vicki did. (Sure, Vicki wanted Jeff to commit murder, but she was an abused wife, and In don't know if people who only WANT other people to die need to be killed for Production Code reasons. So we'll assume that Vicki's death has nothing to do with the Production Code.

So why does she die? She's not really bad; as I mentioned, she's no worse than Jeff. of course, good people die in movies. But they usually die early on, and then their death is avenged later in the movie. To have a good person die all the way at the end, what purpose does that serve? She didn't deserve it, and there's no time for it to be avenged. A unavenged death that occurs at the end of a movie is usually the death of a bad person, who gets their just deserts. what purpose does Vicki's death serve? Whatever punishment she needs, she already got when Jeff dumped her, and now she is running away to a life of drifting and misery. Maybe her death on the train simply serves as a parallel to the earlier death on the train? Maybe it just serves as dark humor, to contrast what has just happened to her with the subsequent shot (on which the movie ends) of the engineer's car, where Jeff is smiling, holding the dancing tickets that he's going to use with Ellen?

I am certainly not criticizing the ending, I am just saying it's interesting, it's very different than most final-scene-deaths in movies.

« Last Edit: August 30, 2017, 04:11:05 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2012, 06:39:46 AM »

The French original is better.

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« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2013, 04:20:17 AM »

Upping my rating to 9/10 after second viewing it grows on you.

here is bmacv's IMDB review

Lang reunites Grahame, Ford for dark, smouldering Zola update, 8 May 2001

Author: bmacv from Western New York

Fresh from their exertions in Fritz Lang's superheated The Big Heat, Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame (joined by Broderick Crawford) reunite for the director's recension of Zola's La Bete Humaine. This time, the heat is not so explosive, but this film's dense, acrid smokes smoulders away to the point of choking claustrophobia. Like Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, the film opens with us criss-crossing a maze of railroad tracks, and the locomotives, cars and switching yards are never far away in this tale of abuse, frustration, adultery and homicides (plural) somewhere out in the prairie heartland. Grahame, when bad, is always good, but she's never been badder or better than here, as the young wife of the violently jealous Broderick Crawford. Glenn Ford, just mustered out of Korea, gets his brakeman's job back and chugs right into the middle of this marital discord. Lang tightens the screws slowly and expertly for the full 90 minutes of this midwestern nightmare (the final words of which, unspoken, are: "Trenton makes, the world takes," read backwards on a railway trestle). This is a canonical work of film noir, left -- like too many others -- in unviewed obscurity. It's every bit the equal of The Big Heat or Scarlet Street.

« Last Edit: April 13, 2013, 04:21:50 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2017, 03:58:45 AM »

Just saw HUMAN DESIRE again, on TCM. Saving this on my DVR; the dvd seems to be out of print; it's only available as part of one of the Columbia Film Noir Classics sets, of which used copies are rare and expensive. I'll have to check into whether Region 2 copies are available at reasonable prices. In the meantime, I'm saving it on my dvr, rigt next to JOURNEY INTO FEAR, another film that played TCM recently and is impossible to find on dvd.

The movie is damn good. The train footage is awesome. (As to what I mentioned last time about rear projections - they're peobably used in the scenes where Ford is driving the train, but they are less noticeable than in some other movies.)
The cinematography is incredible - a good harsh noir cinematography. Performances all top-notch. (Whatever crap I said in previous post about Kathleen Case being unable to hold back smile, I didn't notice this time.) Case is pretty and a decent actress - the wholesome girl, who of course is not as interesting as the femme fatale - looking at her filmography, I am surprised it is so small.

Grahame is not a typical femme fatale - I think she really did no cheating with Owens and was faithful to Broderick until he went nuts on her; her actions with Ford were her first cheating. And she really truly loves Ford, and is not just a conniving bitch. She really is not a typical femme fatale.
The ending seems a bit jarring, ends kinda nowhere, or perhaps unsatisfactorily, not sure. But this is a damn good movie.

« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 11:58:48 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2017, 04:10:25 AM »

"La Bete Humaine" doesn't have its own thread anyway, so I updated this thread's title; it now reads "La Bete Humaine (1938), remade as Human Desire (1954)" - so we can use this thread to discuss both movies  Smiley

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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2017, 04:53:29 AM »

The railway footage in La Bete Humaine (1938) is equally as good BTW. 

There is a sequence where the engineer signals to the fireman that the steam engine needs water. We cut to the shot of the track ahead, what you are seeing between the rails is what was called a track pan. Before track pans, when a locomotive needed water it would have to stop at a water tank to fill the tender. The tender carried both coal for the firebox and a water tank for steam. A track pan was a long shallow rectangular pan filled with water and when Jean Gabin gives the signal for water, the fireman goes to the lever and at Gabin's nod he lowers the scoop that drops into the pan, speed of forward motion forces water into the scoop, up the scoop pipe and into the tanks or locomotive tender on the fly. No need any longer to stop at a water tank and waste precious time. These pans were maybe a couple of thousand feet long.

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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2017, 08:24:27 AM »

IMO the opening railway footage in HUMAN DESIRE is better than LBH's.

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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2017, 05:50:53 PM »

There's a lot more going on running a steam locomotive, and what you are watching is basically the state of the art of steam power 125 years down the line from it's inception. Full transition away from steam power in North America took place during the 1950s.

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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2017, 06:24:01 PM »

There's a lot more going on running a steam locomotive, and what you are watching is basically the state of the art of steam power 125 years down the line from it's inception. Full transition away from steam power in North America took place during the 1950s.

Yes, LBH footage shows the actual guts of how the train works, whereas HD footage just shos the train moving down the track, or POV shots. I still prefer the HD footage; I love those POV shots.

By the way, it seems that on the coal-powered trains, the engineers did not even have a direct window to see out the front? They had to look from the side?

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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2017, 07:15:48 PM »

Yes, LBH footage shows the actual guts of how the train works, whereas HD footage just shos the train moving down the track, or POV shots. I still prefer the HD footage; I love those POV shots.

By the way, it seems that on the coal-powered trains, the engineers did not even have a direct window to see out the front? They had to look from the side?

There was a relatively small window looking forwards, so the goggles helped if you was sticking your head out the side window. World speed record for a steam locomotive is 126 mph.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/3c/13/4b/3c134bbd36a39fcc24f5a9eaf09542c2.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/57/48/d1/5748d172cc3f50bbb666b2eb445ce277.jpg

Unless you had a cab forward locomotive https://i.pinimg.com/736x/56/47/f5/5647f5243fb5f651a3dbe08ddc15d42f--steam-engine-trens.jpg


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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2017, 07:50:09 PM »

I just finished LBH for the second time. I've watched LBH and HD twice each. HD is the better movie.

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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2017, 03:00:58 PM »

I've never seen the remake but the 1938 original has some nice "noir" cinematography involving the rainy train tracks in the night - particularly when Gabin is lurking around with the lead piping.

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« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2017, 11:50:14 AM »

Though Jean Renoir’s La Bęte Humaine has become the more celebrated picture over the years, Fritz Lang’s American remake Human Desire doesn’t deserve to molder away in deepest darkest obscurity. It isn’t simply a cut-rate version of La Bęte. It suffers in comparison solely because of what it has to live up to: Renoir’s masterpiece of Poetic Realism and  Lang’s own Ford-Grahame collaboration The Big Heat from the previous year. But even Lang’s minor efforts pack a punch. The remake succeeds perfectly fine on its own terms.
Renoir’s tale, more of a tragic romance, focuses on the twisted relationship between Jean Gabin and his lover Simone Simon. Lantier (Jean Gabin), a deeply conflicted character with a family history of mental illness and alcoholism, becomes unhinged whenever his passions are aroused. His blood poisoned by madness, he is the titular human beast who in the end - inevitably- kills his lover. Heredity is inescapable fate.
Ill-fated passions play a big part in Human Desire too, but average Joe Glenn Ford (taking Gabin’s role) is no human beast. He’s Noir’s typical chump, at least initially. It’s simply prosaic lust that makes him loose his head.

Glenn Ford plays Jeff Warren, a returning Korean war vet, who takes up his old job as railway engineer again. After the battlefields all he wants is peace, quiet and normalcy. But the peaceful life he has envisioned in Korea is ultimately not the one he pursues at home. Very soon he meets co-worker Carl Buckley’s (Broderick Crawford) wife Vicki (Gloria Grahame) and begins a torrid affair with her. After being fired from his job, Carl begs Vicki to use her considerable charms to talk his boss Owens into giving him his old job back. Vicki’s “charms” get the job done, but not without some extra-special effort. Buckley kills Owens out of jealousy and blackmails Vicki to stay with him as he has incriminating evidence to tie her to the murder. Vicki’s finally had enough and wants hubby offed. She just needs a sucker to do the deed…

Trains play a big role in Human Desire. The train sequences are beautifully shot, they’re industrial poetry though occasionally the railroad metaphors verge on intrusive. We see railway cars chugging along the tracks, freight yards, the cab of a locomotive, the inside of passenger cars, railroad offices and living quarters near the tracks. Train whistles and rumbling cars can often be heard even when the tracks are out of sight. In Westerns there is usually a romantic mystique to trains (opening up the Western frontier and so on) but there isn’t much romance here. There is only the desolation of the train yards, bleak, gritty and unglamorous. Vicky’s and Carl’s house is just a few yards away from the tracks, and their narrow lives are as restrictively laid out as the train tracks.
Railroad tracks convey a certain inevitability. Their course is linear and predetermined, beyond the driver’s control, they lead to destinations that can’t be altered. There’s no turning back and no detours. Fate is laid out in cold hard steel, the driver can only slow down or speed up this progress, but even then he has a schedule to stick to. He can get off half-way but where would he be then? Jeff as the train driver is essentially passive and has no control over the train’s path, and in his life he’s also happy to let himself drift. Jeff’s existence doesn’t go off the rails until he meets Vicki.

Trains are also a means of escape that can easily become a trap as is the case for two murder victims. The cramped corridors are a labyrinth with no way out and claustrophobic compartments become places of no escape that lead the characters to their doom.

Glenn Ford was perfect for everyman roles. His Jeff Warren is one more war vet who can’t quite adjust to peacetime. Peace is fine but it’s also tame and, longing for excitement, he begins a dangerous affair. Yet another of Noir’s punch-drunk love affairs, “the kind of love that makes people hurt one another”. Love, or lust, in Noir is of the poisonous kind, presented not in a romantic context but a psychotic one. It’s like a disease. Jeff knows it too. “It's all wrong, Vicki. The whole thing's been wrong from the beginning... and I feel dirty.”
Lust is a catalyst for crime. “Healthy” love doesn’t exist in the Noir universe. Jeff explicitly rejects the advances of his landlord’s nice young nice daughter Ellen and falls for unavailable Vicki. It’s interesting to note that Ellen, introduced as a bouncy buxom brunette, gets plainer and plainer as the film moves along and his affair with Vicki heats up. Domesticity just can’t keep up with the excitement.

There was always an appealing little girl quality about Grahame with her squeaky voice and the slight lisp. She conveyed a sad vulnerability. There is pathos about her, under her slinky sultriness and feline grace is an undertone of desperation. Not the smartest tack Vicki is nevertheless shrewd and cunning. From the moment she’s introduced lying on her bed waving her legs seductively in the air, we know she’s likely to be bad news. However, in the first 45 minutes of the film she elicits nothing but utter sympathy stuck as she is with a despicable pig of a husband and a former boss who can’t keep his hands to himself. Like Cora in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Vicki is another gal who settled for a much older man she didn’t love for obscure reasons and missed the gravy train. Her husband knows he’s punching above his weight and out of insecurity can’t keep his jealousy under control. Broderick Crawford, scary though occasionally too hammy as violent louse of a husband with a hair trigger temper, is a failure on every level. Though Carl beats about the bush, he implies Vicki should do whatever it takes to help him get his job back. The guy practically prostitutes his wife and then gets angry when he finds out she did exactly that.
Vicki doesn’t want to commit murder for money and power, her actions are as much out of self-preservation as they are wickedness. When Carl murdered Owens, she was a more or less willing accessory. She rationalizes Jeff killing her husband, because as a soldier he has already killed plenty of men so what’s one more, especially for a role in the hay with her.
Interesting too is her confession in the end that she seduced Owens as a teenager because she wanted to become the second Mrs. The lady has some deep-seated issues. Lang skillfully plays with our perception of Vicki. Her stories are constantly changing, she’s a compulsive liar. She spins her web of sex, lies and deceit expertly. Is she the abused and passive victim, or perpetrator and diabolical instigator of crime? She’s one of the most ambiguous femme fatales ever, we never get a conclusive answer.
In a nice twist to the usual set-up, in the end Jeff doesn't play. He may have the hots for the dame but he won’t commit murder for her. Jeff understands that Vicki just used him to do the dirty work for him. He’s not quite the chump she took him to be. When Vicki breathes her last unbeknownst to Jeff, Jeff sits in the engine room with a content smile on his face, looking forward to a date with Ellen.

The happy ending for Jeff worked for me, it operates as a natural part of the overall narrative. Fatalism here is feminine. Vicki was on a downward path from the beginning.

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« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2017, 03:36:12 PM »

great review as always, Jessica  Afro Afro Afro. I'll comment on the details when I have some time.

Am I the only person who prefers Human Desire to La Bete Humaine?

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