of the hostage films that i can think of right now (hostage, key largo, petrified forest, fight for your life, panic room, etc.) this one is the best. it has a little bit of everything and does it all quite well.
bogart, his brother and another convict have just broken out of jail. they manage to elude police detection and find a nice suburban household to infiltrate while they wait for bogart’s woman to bring them his stash. fight for your life is remarkably similar to this film, but it takes a much harder course than this one, though that’s expected since it’s a 70s picture. bogart plays a similar character to the one he played in the petrified forest. bogart, by the way, does more acting with his hands than most actors do with their entire body – check it out and you’ll know what i’m talking about.
it’s an old-fashioned film with some old-fashioned values, but i’m an old-fashioned guy in some ways so i really liked it. the father (fredric march) was the center of all major the relationships in the film – him and his wife, his daughter, his son, bogart and, eventually, the police. the clash between march and bogart is great stuff. both are intense, intelligent, calculating and desperate. the dialogue, though great throughout, is best between the two of them. “clickity clack” says bogart, referring to march thinking about his predicament. wyler is able to ratchet up the tension in part because the characters are so well written. bogart and march, especially, are smartly written and it elevates the entire film knowing that both of them are street wise.
throw in a pinch of humor, some effective brutality, economic commentary, and solid supporting performances and you’ve got a very strong picture.