In the world of movies, we can find many types of characters: good, bad, anti-heroes, people who “don’t give a damn” and so on. To celebrate the world of movie villains, Kristina from Speakeasy, Ruth from Silver Screening and Shadow and Satin are once again back with the Great Villain Blogathon! I always thought that villains, even if we don’t like them, are, sometimes, the most interesting characters in a movie. Yesterday I was watching A Clockwork Orange again and, oh my, if I’ll write something about Alex de Large one day, I’ll have much to say.
But for this week’s blogathon, I’m going to focus on a less notorious character than Kubrick’s one and will talk to you about Glenn Griffin, The Desperate Hours‘ villain portrayed by the one and only Humphrey Bogart.
The Desperate Hours was directed by the great William Wyler and release in 1955. It stars Humphrey Bogart as Glenn Griffin, Fredric March as Daniel C. Hilliard, Arthur Kennedy as Deputy Sheriff Jesse Bard, Martha Scott as Eleanor “Ellie” Hilliard, Mary Murphy as Cindy Hilliard, Richard Eyer as Ralphie Hilliard, Dewey Martin as Hal Griffin, Robert Middleton as Simon Kobish, Gig Young as Chuck, Walter Baldwin as George Patterson and Whit Bissell as FBI Agent Carson. This was to be one of Humphrey Bogart’s last film before his death in 1957. The film was based on the 1954’s book The Desperate Hours and its play, both written by Joseph Hayes. The author also wrote the film’s screenplay. The story was itself based on a real similar event that happened to the Hill family in 1952.
But what is The Desperate Hours about? Because we agree, it’s not one of Wyler’s most famous films, so you might have heard about it, but haven’t necessarily seen it. However, I consider it to be one of it’s most thrilling films. The Desperate Hours takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana. Glenn Griffin and his two partners in crime, his brother Hal and Simon Kobish have escaped from jail. They have to wait for a envelope of money before running away from the country. They decide to invade Daniel Hilliard house and hold hostage him and his family until the package arrives. The Hillard will live the most horrible hours of their life. On its side, the police is investigating on the escaping of Griffin and his two acolytes
There isn’t, of course, only one villain in The Desperate Hours, but three. However, Glenn Griffin is the worst villain and the bright head of the group. He leads and takes the decision. Simon Kobish is dangerous as he is a big and violent brute, but he doesn’t really know how to use his head, making him someone rather dumb and with no judgement. As for Glenn’s brother, the young Hal, he obeys his brother orders, but we know he doesn’t necessarily agree with them and this will be proved toward the end of the film. All he wishes is to receive the money and go away. Glenn, with his cruel mentality, takes a pleasure to torture a poor innocent family, but Hal’s duty is only to make sure they won’t go away. If Griffin probably hates Hillard (as his wife says), it doesn’t seem to be the case for Hal. He doesn’t have anything personal against them.
Of course, the worst villains are the bright ones, those who know how to use their cleverness to reach their goal, those who won’t only torture people physically, but also mentally. In the same category, we can think of villains such as Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Eve Harrington from All About Eve. They are the types of characters who seem to be innocent at first, but finally turn out to be real evils. As for Glenn, well he is both, as much a brute as a clever villain. That’s what makes him a rather fascinating character and complex person.
The Desperate Hours is the kind of film that makes you realize that anything can happen to anybody, not necessarily only to people who look for trouble. Here, we have the perfect example: the typical average American family; mum, dad, the daughter and her little brother. Oh, this little brother, Ralphie, is seriously one of the most adorable movie characters ever. How can a bunch of stupid criminals dare put his life in danger. Luckily, he and his sister have a loving father who will do everything to protect them and their mother.
Talking about Hillard, we have to admit that the opposition between Fredric March and Humphrey Bogart in this film is quite exciting. For both actors, it wasn’t their first time working under the direction of William Wyler. Bogart was seen almost 20 years earlier in Dead End (1937) and, as for Fredric March, he previously starred in Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). It’s a fact that that Wyler was one of those movie directors who knew how to bring the best out of his actors. Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March were, indeed, perfectly cast in their respective roles. They knew how to adjust their acting to what their characters needed to express, with the body language and the voice tone. Humphrey Bogart gives to his character a cruel dimension that makes us perfectly hate him, and Fredric March is perfect as the tortured victim. The opposition between the two characters is worthy due to their respective intelligence. Hillard tries to figure a way to save his family, but Griffin always seems to figure what he’s thinking about. Who will win this battle? That question certainly is one of the elements that perfectly catch our attention while we’re watching the film.
But if we’ll get back to Humphrey Bogart’s character himself, Glenn is not an invincible villain. He surely takes pleasure to scare the Hillard, especially Ms. Hillard, but we discover that he has his weaknesses, one of them being his brother. If Hillard seems to be a man with no love and no pity, one of the rare persons he seems to care about is his brother. As the oldest brother, he feels responsible of what might happen to him in this situation. A situation that is not only dangerous for the Hillard, but also for the three villains as we’ll never know how things will turn out.
Of course, Mr. Hillard is not the only one to here to help the family. Luckily, Chuck, Cindy’s boyfriend, starts being suspicious about what is going on in the house. When he goes out with Cindy, this one never wants him to come in the house. On their side, the police, including Deputy Sheriff Jesse Bard (brilliantly portrayed by Arthur Kennedy), puts the puzzle pieces together and manage to plan something to save the family.
When I watched this film for the blogathon, it was my second viewing. I realized how it was one of the most exciting and stressing movies directed by William Wyler. It’s very different from some of his previous movies and that shows perfectly the director’s versatility. In 1990, a remake directed by Michael Cimino and starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins was released. Like most remakes of great films, it wasn’t a big commercial success nor a critical one.
I tried not to reveal too much about the film, because there’s so much you need to discover by yourself if you haven’t seen it! I, of course, invite you to read the other entries of this blogathon as well.
Once again, a big thanks to Speakeasy, Shadow and Satin and Silver Screening for being back again this year to host such a fun blogathon!
See you soon!