The audience meets some wretched characters on the railroad in this adaptation of the Emile Zola novel, The Human Beast. A French picturization of the work was done earlier with heavy accent on psychological study of an alcohol-crazed killer.
Fritz Lang, director, goes overboard in his effort to create mood. Long focusing on locomotive speeding and twisting on the rails is neither entertaining nor essential to the plot.
At the outset the screenplay provides much conversation about the fact that Glenn Ford, who’s back on the job as an engineer, had been fighting the war in Korea. There’s not much point to this, considering that Ford’s background has little bearing on the yarn.
Broderick Crawford, Gloria Grahame and Ford make a brooding, sordid triangle, hopelessly involved. Crawford is utterly frustrated in his effort to please his wife (Grahame) and stay on an even keel with his heartless boss. Grahame is a miserable character, alternately denying and admitting she has given herself to other men. Ford dates Grahame and toys with the idea of murdering her husband.