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
Starring Glenn Ford
Gloria Grahame
Broderick Crawford
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 was filmed twice before: La Bête humaine (1938) directed by Jean Renoir and Die Bestie im Menschen (1920).[1]


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.



Critical response[edit]

Critic Dennis Schwartz liked the look of the film and wrote, "Cinematographer Burnett Guffey is relentless in capturing the spiritual desolation of the characters with ominous shots of the myriad railroad tracks interweaving and separating in a train yard at night. It becomes a metaphor for the human paths criss-crossing each other. Penetrating and searing, Human Desire is a nagging allegory about the darkness of human motivation and the corruption of the soul, and of desperate characters who live unfulfilled lives. It's not one of Lang's great pictures (it becomes too heavy-handed in parts), but anything Lang does has a power that is hard to forget. This one entertains as a riveting melodrama."[2]

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]

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

The homes shown in the film are still standing, though in rough condition.

There are several errors in the film, such as the engineer not sounding the horn for railroad crossings, and at bridge and tunnel portals.


  1. ^ Human Desire at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, May 2, 2004. Last accessed: January 27, 2008.
  3. ^ Kehr, Dave. Chicago Reader, review, 2008. Last accessed: January 27, 2007.

External links[edit]