Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 26th, 2003
Humphrey Bogart leads a trio of cons who have violently broken out of prison. On the run,they randomly select a suburban house in which to hole up and take hostages. This happens to bethe home of Fredric March, and a tense battle of wits and wills ensue. March’s dilemma issimple: if the police show up, Bogart will make sure his family dies. But if he doesn’t get help,what guarantee does he have that Bogart won’t kill them all anyway? Though film adaptations ofplays are ofte… awkwardly bound to one set, The Desperate Hours works despite minimalopening up, as the house becomes a claustrophobic prison for both characters and audience.Bogart and March are believably well-matched antagonists, each one perfectly embodyingeverything the other man despises about the American experience. Terrific stuff.
Mono sound, but you really won’t miss the stereo. For one thing, the risks involved withstereo remixes often outweigh potential benefits. For another, after the opening credits, there isno music score. This is a film much more about the crackling dialogue and tension between thecharacters, and no surround is needed. The sound is very clear, and there is only very, very minorbackground hiss — pretty good for a film almost fifty years old.
The film’s original ratio is 1.85:1 (VistaVision). What we have here looks to me like the1.78:1 cheat that is becoming all too frequent. That aside, the video transfer is gorgeous. Thereis virtually no grain at all, or barely perceptible when it is present. The image is incredibly sharp,with every texture of the steely black-and-white photography coming through. The edgeenhancement halo, even around dark-suited Fredric March, is minimal. The speckles are so fewas to be effectively non-existent. There is a moment of damage at about the 5:40 mark, in theform of strobing light across the centre of the frame, but otherwise, the film possibly looks evenbetter than it did upon original release.
None whatsoever. Not even a trailer.
The total lack of extras is, of course, disappointing. That should not discourage you fromtracking down the film, however, which remains a sterling exercise in suspense.