Nicholas Ray | 79 mins | TV | 4:3 | USA / English
Helmed by acclaimed director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause, In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar), On Dangerous Ground is a film noir in which an over-zealous city cop (Robert Ryan) is punished by being sent upstate to investigate a murdered girl. There he encounters a blind woman (Ida Lupino) and, perhaps, finds redemption…
Despite the praise emanating from some quarters (“the material achieves a nearly transcendental beauty in the hands of Ray”, “a touching psychological drama about despair and loneliness”, and so on), I’m afraid this one provoked a lukewarm reaction from me. I didn’t feel the redemptive character arc was particularly clear, though perhaps this was in part the fault of Ray having to change the ending by studio mandate, and maybe having to pull punches in certain areas due to it being the ’50s.
I also didn’t ‘feel’ the juxtaposition of shadowy city in the film’s early sections with bright snowy country later on. Nonetheless, there is a clear contrast on screen, particularly as the city is all shot at night and is very black, while most of the country scenes occur in daylight, emphasising the near-ceaseless white of the snow. Expectation is a factor here: plot summaries all emphasise the “sent upstate” part, whereas a good chunk at the start is spent in the city, which threw me.
On the plus side, Bernard Herrmann’s score is unequivocally excellent, particularly the pulsating opening theme and the insistent action climax.
On Dangerous Ground is quite possibly a better film than I’m giving it credit for, but I just didn’t connect with it in the way I hoped. Definitely one to watch again.