Lang reunites Grahame, Ford for dark, smouldering Zola update
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.
cast: 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.
Also Known As:
Human Beast, The (1954) (USA: working title)
Runtime: 91 min
Black and White