Human Desire

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Human Desire
Human Desire 1954.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Lewis J. Rachmil
Screenplay by Alfred Hayes
Based on the novel La Bête Humaine 
by Émile Zola
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Edited by Aaron Stell
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • August 15, 1954 (1954-08-15) (United States)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Human Desire is a 1954 black-and-white film noir directed by Fritz Lang, and loosely based on the novel La Bête humaine by Émile Zola. The story had been filmed twice before: La Bête humaine (1938) directed by Jean Renoir and Die Bestie im Menschen (1920).


Railroad supervisor Carl Buckley gets fired from his job. He persuades his seductive wife to pay a visit to an important railroad customer in order to try to get his job back. When Buckley suspects that his sexy, younger wife Vicki (Grahame) has done more than just talk with the rich old magnate, he smacks her around. He then jealously stalks his rival, finally stabbing him to death in a train compartment. Locomotive engineer and Korean War vet, Jeff Warren (Ford) observed Vicki in the vicinity of the murder, but shields her at the inquest, as she sets his pulse racing. The two begin an affair which is hard to keep quiet in such a small town. Vicki then starts scheming for Warren to kill her increasingly drunk and violent husband.



This film was largely shot in the vicinity of El Reno, Oklahoma.[1] It used the facilities of what was at the time the Rock Island railroad (now Union Pacific),[2] though some of the moving background shots show East Coast scenes such as bridges.


Critic Dave Kehr wrote of the film, "Gloria Grahame, at her brassiest, pleads with Glenn Ford to do away with her slob of a husband, Broderick Crawford...A gripping melodrama, marred only by Ford's inability to register an appropriate sense of doom."[3] Variety wrote that Lang "goes overboard in his effort to create mood".[4] Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "[T]here isn't a single character in it for whom it builds up the slightest sympathy—and there isn't a great deal else in it for which you're likely to have the least regard."[5]


  1. ^ Medley, Robert (June 26, 1989). "USAO to Preserve State History at Film Repository". The Oklahoman. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  2. ^ Carr, Jay (September 1, 2006). "Glenn Ford; actor's demeanor, quiet decency reflected an era". Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ Kehr, Dave. Chicago Reader, review, 2008. Last accessed: January 27, 2007.
  4. ^ "Review: ‘Human Desire’". Variety. 1954. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (August 7, 1954). "Human Desire (1954)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 

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