Fritz Lang was the second master filmmaker—after Jean Renoir—to film Émile Zola’s 1890 novel La Bête humaine. Transposing the book’s story of murder, infidelity, seduction, and revenge from the world of French engine drivers to that of New Jersey railroad workers, he clearly relished the chance to stage complex action scenes in cramped train corridors and darkened rail yards. The film’s centerpiece, however, is Grahame’s towering performance as the dissatisfied, vengeful wife of a brutish conductor she aims to have killed—preferably by his co-worker, an upright war veteran played by Glenn Ford. Shrill, desperate, savvy, imploring, ferocious: Grahame may have never dominated a movie the way she dominates Human Desire, which further cemented her image as a doomed, tragic femme fatale.