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The Desperate Hours
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Genre:Thriller
Year:1955
Rating:NR
Cast:William Wyler, Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March, Arthur Kennedy

Based on the novel and play by Joseph Hayes, which in turn was inspired by an actual event, The Desperate Hours is the prototypical "family-trapped-by-criminals" drama. Escaped convicts Humphrey Bogart, Robert Middleton and Dewey Martin, seeking an appropriate hideout until they can make contact with their money supply, deliberately choose the suburban home of Fredric March and his family. The cold-blooded Bogart wants no trouble with the police, and he knows he can cower a family with children into cooperating with him. The convict orders March, his wife Martha Scott, and their children Richard Eyer and Mary Murphy, to go about their normal activities so as not to arouse suspicion. Young Eyer, upset that March won't lift a hand against Bogart, assumes that his father is a coward. The authorities are alerted when March, at Bogart's behest, draws money for the convict's getaway from the bank. Pushed to the breaking point, March begins subtly turning the tables on the convicts. The climax finds the house surrounded by police; Bogart laughs as March approaches him, gun in hand, insisting that March hasn't the guts to shoot. March coolly responds that Bogart's behavior has given him the requisite guts, and orders the convict out of his house. Bogart's character in Desperate Hours was originally written for a much younger man, which explains why Paul Newman was able to play the part in the original Broadway production. The film was slated to co-star Bogart with his old pal Spencer Tracy, but this plan fell through when the two actors couldn't agree on who would get top billing. Desperate Hours was remade in 1991 with Mickey Rourke in the Bogart role and with virtually no attention paid to such intangibles as coherency and logic. Hal Erickson

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