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The Desperate Hours (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements


A suburban family's home is invaded by a trio of violent escaped convicts in this hard boiled film-noir starring Humphrey Bogart.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Desperate Hours, a tense and taut film-noir thriller by director William Wyler was based on the novel and play by Joseph Hayes, which was in turn based on a true criminal home invasion, which would also go on to inspire The Last House on the Left.

Humphrey Bogart stars in what would be his penultimate film (1956’s The Harder They Fall would be his final film) as Glenn Griffin, an escaped convict leading two underling escapees, his brother Hal (Dewey Martin) and Sam Kobish (Robert Middleton). The criminals invade the suburban Indianapolis home of the Hilliard family to hole up. Cold-blooded Griffin knows he can frighten patriarch Daniel Hilliard (Fredric March) into submission by threatening his wife (Martha Scott) and two children (Richard Eyer and Mary Murphy). Even as his young son begins to think him a coward, Daniel stoically stands up to the Griffin gang, even heading out to work the next day and keeping the home invasion quiet. The tide slowly begins to turn, however, as the usual activities of suburban life begin to intrude upon the gang’s hideout and their contact is late connecting with them.

Bogart puts in a brilliant late career performance as Wyler infuses the film with all the noir thrills and chiaroscuro one expects from this hard-boiled genre. In many ways, The Desperate Hours marks the generational and societal shift playing out on the big screen. We see the old school gangsters, underground criminals, and dangerous characters of the world of film-noir that ruled the genre – and the streets – slam right into the post-war suburban, Ozzy & Harriet nuclear family that would become the definition of the era. There is no lack of violence and fiendish behavior on the part of the criminals. The Hilliard boy is attacked, and it is implied that the older daughter Cindy Hilliard (Mary Murphy) may be raped. In all, despite clocking in over two hours, there is not a minute wasted in this tightly wound film. Director Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) would remake the film in 1990 with Mickey Rourke in the Bogart role and a start-studded cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers, Kelly Lynch, and David Morse.

  • Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March, Mary Murphy, and Martha Scott in The Desperate Hours (1955)
  • Arthur Kennedy in The Desperate Hours (1955)
  • Fredric March and Robert Middleton in The Desperate Hours (1955)
  • Humphrey Bogart and Martha Scott in The Desperate Hours (1955)
  • The Desperate Hours (Limited Edition) (Arrow Video - AV533)
  • The Desperate Hours (Limited Edition) (Arrow Video - AV533)
  • The Desperate Hours (Limited Edition) (Arrow Video - AV533)

The Video

The Desperate Hours comes to Blu-ray from a brand new restoration by Arrow Films from a 6K scan of the original VistaVision negative. It is presented in a 1.85:1 AVC 1080p encodement. The stark black and white image looks crisp and mostly consistent with just a few places where some film softness and production choices and in-camera effects soften some detail and add more grain. The grain density is quite high and fine, with three-dimensional, deep focus imagery, palpable textures such as the stubble and crevices on Bogart’s face or the material of the finely pressed suit worn by Fredric March. The inky blacks in some of the few outdoor nighttime scenes are juxtaposed against bright storefront signage.

The Audio

The original monaural audio mix has been remastered and presented in a LPCM 1.0 track on this release. It has a low overall mastering level but clean intelligible dialogue.

The Supplements

The Desperate Hours is not one of Arrow’s most feature-rich releases, but there is still an abundance of new and collectible extras including an audio commentary, visual essay, and interview. The reversible cover art and high-quality collector’s booklet make the release a worthy inclusion to any film library.

  • Commentary by Daniel Kremer
  • Trouble in Suburbia (1080p; 00:38:51) – Brand new appreciation of the film by José Arroyo, Associate Professor in Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in 2023.
  • The Lonely Man (1080p; 00:14:54) – A brand new visual essay by Eloise Ross, co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in 2023.
  • Scaled Down and Ratcheted Up (1080p; 00:11:47) – A brand new audio interview with Catherine Wyler, daughter of director William Wyler, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in 2023.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:02:19)
  • Lobby cards gallery (1080p)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio.
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Philip Kemp and Neil Sinyard.

The Final Assessment

A riveting film-noir thriller with an outstanding late career performance from Humphrey Bogart is given a reference quality restoration from the always-consistent Arrow Films. Given this is from a 6K scan of the original VistaVision camera negative, I wish this were being released on 4K HDR – perhaps that will be coming at a later date? Highly recommended.

The Desperate Hours (Limited Edition) is out on Blu-ray October 17, 2023, from Arrow Video.

  • Rating Certificate: Approved
  • Studios & Distributors: Paramount Pictures | Arrow Video
  • Director: William Wyler
  • Written By: Joseph Hayes (screenplay, play, novel) | Jay Dratler (contributor to screenplay construction) (uncredited)
  • Run Time: 112 Mins.
  • Street Date: 17 October 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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A suburban family's home is invaded by a trio of violent escaped convicts in this hard boiled film-noir starring Humphrey Bogart.The Desperate Hours (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)