Desperate (1947)

Directed by Anthony Mann

Cinematography by

George E. Diskant

A young married couple flee both police and a gangster out for revenge.

Pursue and Death Wish

25 June 2013 | by Claudio Carvalho (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

The trucker Steve Randall (Steve Brodie) is an ex-GI that has fought in the war and has been married with Anne Randall (Audrey Long) for four months. Steve has a trucking business, but he arrives home with the intention of celebrating his wedding anniversary with Anne. He receives a phone call from a client that offers a small fortune to him to transport some goods that night and he does not have how to refuse.

When he arrives at the spot, he finds that he was lured by the mobster Walt Radak (Raymond Burr) that wants to use Steve’s truck to transport stolen furs. Steve does not accept the deal but is forced by Walt’s gangsters to drive his truck. When he sees a police officer on the street, he blinks the headlights to call his attention. There is a shooting and the police officer is murdered and Walt’s young brother Al is left behind and arrested by the police.
Walt tries to force Steve to assume the murder to save his brother but Steve flees from the gangsters and travels with Anne, who is pregnant, to the countryside, pursued by Walt and his gangsters and by the police. When Steve finds a safe place for Anne in the farm of her Aunt Klara (Ilka Gruning) and Uncle Jan (Paul E. Burns), he goes to the police department and tells his story to Det. Lt. Louie Ferrari (Jason Robards) that does not believe in his words but let him go. Steve returns to the farm without knowing that Ferrari released him to be a bait to catch Walt and his men.

“Desperate” is a film-noir by Anthony Mann with a good story of pursue and death wish, with sordid characters, like for example the mobster, the car dealer, the detective lieutenant among others and good duel between Steve Brodie and Raymond Burr. My vote is seven.


Brodie vs. Burr in Anthony Mann’s brusque, bare-bones noir

Author: bmacv from Western New York
30 October 2002

Hot on the heels of RKO’s beeping radio tower astride the globe, `Desperate’ flashes on the screen, ragged letters smeared along a rising diagonal. In 1947, that was all audiences needed to alert them that one of the short, swift and stylish products of a new division of the film industry (not yet termed film noir) was about to unspool.

Teamster Steve Brodie takes a call to do a night hauling job; since it’s his four-month anniversary, he demurs at first, but the pay is too good to pass up. He should have, for the indispensably creepy Raymond Burr and his gang are using him and his truck in a warehouse heist. When Brodie catches on, his attempts to thwart the burglary result in the capture of Burr’s kid brother, who has just shot a policeman. Roughed up by Burr, Brodie must convince the police that he’s the killer – or his bride (Audrey Long) will suffer Burr’s wrath; Burr brandishes a jagged bottle to cinch the threat. But Brodie makes a break for it.

What follows is a protracted cat-and-mouse game played out from Chicago to Minnesota farm country, with Burr in pursuit of the newlyweds. It’s the classic story of just plain folks caught up in a sinister web of circumstances, and its director is Anthony Mann, working up to his legendary collaboration with John Alton (his able cinematographer here is George Diskant).


In the basement where Burr works Brodie over, a wildly swinging ceiling lamp floods the action with a harsh glare then plunges it into darkness, adding immeasurably to the dread. Near the end, when Burr plans to kill Brodie at the stroke of midnight – the precise moment when his own brother will die in the electric chair – a montage of faces and eyes ratchets up the tension as the seconds tick by. Mann shows his native talent for the film medium in every frame, and he’s abetted by Brodie, Burr and that old pro Jason Robards (Sr.) as a police detective. There are flashier and more resonant films in the noir cycle, but for rough, bare-bones entertainment, Desperate is hard to beat.


Classic B Film

Author: whpratt1 from United States
19 March 2005

This Black and White film from the late 40’s had a great deal of class and great acting. Steve Brodie,(Steve Randall),”Frankenstein Island”,’81, played a guy who had all the bad breaks and never seemed to be able to settle down with the gal or off spring and have a nice home in a small country town. Audrey Lang,(Anne Randall),”Born to Kill”,’47, was the wife of Steve Randall who did her best to help him make the right decisions and even got him to marry her. Steve and Ann Randall kept running away from a terrible threat made by Raymond Burr,(Walt Radak),”San Quentin”,’46, who was seeking revenge for the loss of a close family member. Jason Robards Sr., (Detective Lt., Louie Ferrari),”Impact”,’49, played the detective who was very interested in Steve Randall and hounded him where ever he traveled. There are some very tense scenes in which Walt Radak uses a clock to drive Steve Randall to a complete breaking point in his life. Great classic B film with a very young looking Raymond Burr and Jason Robards Sr. giving a great supporting role.


Dick Elliott

Burr- Menace Personified

Author: rsyung from United States
18 May 2001

This film, and others like it from that era, has something which has long been missing from suspense/crime movies of today: a slow-to-build menace. Things develop almost leisurely, and then–Burr, that menace personified, pounces like a rabid dog hounding Steve Brodie. The pay-off is so much more effective when a director takes the time to build the foundation of suspense. The characters are well-developed, Detective Ferrari in particular. He starts out as an antagonist and ends up, reluctantly, on the side of truth and justice. Brodie’s backstory hints at a checkered past. The ending, as Steve faces death at midnight, the clock ticking away, is played out in what seems to be real-time. It was truly a nail-biter. Satisfying and captivating all the way.



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