The-man-on-the-ledge theme has been used in movies and on TV so often over the years that it has surely reached cliche status by now.
Director Henry Hathaway, however, in FOURTEEN HOURS (1951) guides the drama and urban tensions with such sure-handed craftsmanship, that this ledge jumper based film has remained almost as powerfully involving and suspenseful today as it was 55 years ago.
Furthermore, Hathaway gives FOURTEEN HOURS a master's touch by utilizing his own established and innovative semidocumentary style (see THE HOUSE ON 92nd STREET (1945); KISS OF DEATH (1947)). Thus, FOURTEEN HOURS, with its low-keyed black-and-white cinematography, effectively captures a segment of Manhattan's dramatically restless urban world in moody noir fashion.
And in addition, strong performances abound.
Especially noteworthy is Richard Basehart (the cause of all the commotion) as the disturbed 14hr. ledge occupant way way up on the fifteenth floor of a Manhattan hotel on St. Patrick's Day. (Actually, all this is based on a true incident; the film realistically depicts the sensationalistic media frenzy surrounding the event, with news-starved reporters everywhere, and some crude, insensitive behavior by numerous spectators).
Paul Douglas likewise shines in his role as a traffic cop who tries to keep Basehart from jumping.
Also, Barbara Bel Geddes is impressive (and eloquently gentle) as Basehart's former fiancee.
The many-faceted spectator emotions (some quite strong) on the street and surroundings set other little dramas in motion.
Here even Grace Kelly makes her film debut, as a maritally unhappy spectator observing and reacting to Basehart's plight above. Debra Paget and Jeffrey Hunter are also nearby.
By all means, add this fascinating and strongly fatalistic noir to your collection. Here are 5 stars to welcome its DVD appearance in such excellent condition.