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Film / The Desperate Hours

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The Desperate Hours is a 1955 Film Noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March. The movie was produced and directed by William Wyler and based on a novel and play of the same name written by Joseph Hayes (who also co-wrote the screenplay), which were Very Loosely Based on a True Story.

Glenn Griffin (Bogart) is the leader of a trio of escaped convicts who invade a family's suburban home in Indianapolis and hold four members of the family hostage. There they await the arrival of a package from Griffin's girlfriend, that contains funds to aid the three fugitives in their escape. Griffin menaces and torments the Hilliards and threatens to kill them. Finally the father, Daniel Hilliard (March), after convincing law enforcement personnel that their plan to storm the residence is too risky for his family, decides to play a trick on Griffin.


The novel would be adapted again into a 1967 Made-for-TV Movie, while the film was remade in 1990 as Desperate Hours, directed by Michael Cimino and set in Utah. The film was also remade in India as the Hindi film 36 Ghante in 1974.

This film features examples of:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Cindy, 19 years of age, is dating a character played by Gig Young (41 years at the time).
  • Age Lift: Glenn Griffin was a much younger man in the play, being played by a young Paul Newman. When Humphrey Bogart was cast for the movie, being a bigger star at the time, Griffin was aged to accommodate the middle-aged Bogart.
  • Covert Distress Code: Ralph tries to sneak out a message to the visiting teacher via a notebook. Foiled by Griffin who looked through the attempt.
  • The End: The movie closes on such a title card.
  • Get Out!: Said by Hilliard at the end while having Griffin at gunpoint.
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  • In the Back: The garbage man gets it in the back by Kobish.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Hilliard tricks Griffin into using a gun with no bullets.
  • Man Bites Man: Cindy bites the younger Griffin brother in his hand which results in him losing his gun to Hilliard Sr.
  • The Meddling Kids Are Useless: The family has two or three perfect escapes foiled by the same kid. In one they get outside, find the kid missing and see he's still in the house at gunpoint. This kid also mouthed off to the bandits with something like "Oh, yeah? Well, when my father gets to his gun which is in the drawer right there ..."
  • Protect This House: Daniel has to look after his family after Griffin and his gang invade his home.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Against the word of the local politician, the FBI agent allows Hilliard back in his house.
  • Tap on the Head: Both Kobish and Hilliard Sr. go out after getting beaten in the neck by Griffin.
  • Terrible Trio: Griffin's gang, a trio of escaped convicts that invade the Hilliard home.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Griffin gets more unhinged after his brother leaves.