Those who read this blog can ascertain that Humphrey Bogart and Harrison Ford are among my favorite actors. When it comes to actors, I have devoted the most blog posts to these two screen legends. The filmography of both feature a wide variety of movies. Ultimately the two actors are generally associated with a small selection of their movies. For Bogart it is films such as Casablanca, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. For Harrison Ford it is the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Both actors have played a broad range of roles throughout their careers. It is interesting to note that Harrison Ford appeared in one remake of a Humphrey Bogart film. That film was the romantic comedy Sabrina (1954). Both versions are far from each actor’s best work. The original is elevated by the appearance of a young Audrey Hepburn in the title role. The 1995 remake is one of Harrison Ford’s lesser films. Overall it is an enjoyable, but average movie.
In the filmography of these actors are two vastly overlooked movies. Considering the number of films made by both actors it is understandable that some films have gotten more attention than others. It is interesting to note that these two films, at their cores, are so similar that one could almost view them as the same movie made twice. The movies are The Desperate Hours (1955) and Firewall (2006).
I want to point out some of the similarities and difference between these two engaging movies. In doing so I do not want to reveal too much of the plots of the movies. Both feature suspense, tension and surprises. Although Firewall is not a remake of The Desperate Hours, that title would have been appropriate for Ford’s movie.
Both films open with a day in the life of an upper class suburban family. In The Desperate Hours it is the Hilliard family. Firewall features the Stanfield household. At the onset of the films a middle age husband/father is preparing to go to work. His wife, who is noticeably younger, is in the kitchen with their children. The teenage daughter is acting like a typical teenager and their young son is present as well. The son and daughter bicker as only siblings can. The husband kisses the wife goodbye and goes to work. When he returns home that evening his life and that of his family are forever changed.
In both films after the father has gone to work their homes are overtaken by a group of criminals. The family members are held hostage and told that they will be released once the group obtains their objective. Their motivations may differ but ultimately the bad guys in both films are looking for the same thing.
Both films feature the main stars past their physical primes. Humphrey Bogart was in his mid 50’s and Harrison Ford in his mid 60s. This being the case both stars proved that they were still vital and effective actors capable of carrying a movie.
Both feature seemingly unimportant moments in the opening scene that foreshadow later, more significant events.
In both films the captive families, especially the fathers, do not roll over easily. Under deep distress and the threat of violence there is push back against the captors. There are consequences to their actions but the families devote a good deal of time trying to devise ways out of their desperate situations.
As I stated the core of the plots of the films are similar. However, there are many plot points that ultimately make these two movies very different. One of the biggest points of difference between the films is the casting choices. The film’s basic plots may be similar, however Bogart and Ford do not portray the same role. Ford is his movie’s protagonist. Bogart, revisiting the villainous roles of his early career, is the antagonist of his movie. Ford’s Jack Stanfield is similar to Daniel Hilliard, the patriarch from The Desperate Hours. Hilliard is portrayed by Fredric March.
In both films the wife stays at home with the children while the father goes off to work. In The Desperate Hours, Eleanor Hilliard, portrayed by Martha Scott, appears to be a housewife. There is no mention of an occupation. In Firewall Beth Stanfield, portrayed by Virginia Madsen, stays at home, but she is an architect. Earlier in the movie she is shown working on a project. Later in the story one of their captors asks her about her design work. Early on in Firewall, Jack Stanfield mentions that the children are home from school for the week, so it is possible that this is the reason for Beth Stanfield being home as well.
The bad guys motivation for entering the family homes differs greatly. In The Desperate Hours the house is chosen for a reason, but in the heat of the moment. In Firewall the house and the family are targeted for a specific reason. The invasion of the Stanfield house is part of a long, elaborate plan.
Humphrey Bogart’s The Desperate Hours and Harrison Ford’s Firewall are extremely enjoyable movies. Both are lesser known in the filmography of these two iconic actors. Both films share more than enough similarities to warrant comparisons. The basic story structure at the onset of each movie is similar. But as the movies progress they do go in different directions. Both films ultimately come to the same resolution. That said, each winds down a very different path to arrive at their conclusion. As a fan of Humphrey Bogart and Harrison Ford I highly recommend both films. Over the last several years I have viewed these films multiple times. Of the two I viewed Firewall first when it was initially released in the theaters. Years later after watching The Desperate hours I realized how similar the two films were. This realization has enhanced my appreciation for both films.