On Dangerous Ground (1952)

“All we ever see is crooks, murderers, winos, stoolies, dames — all with an angle. You get so you think everybody’s like that; ’til you find out different, it’s kind of a lonely life.”

Synopsis:
A city cop (Robert Ryan) with increasingly violent tendencies is sent by his concerned boss (Ed Begley) to help with a murder case up north in the countryside. Once there, he falls in love with the blind sister (Ida Lupino) of the young killer (Sumner Williams), and finds himself trying to stop the victim’s vengeful father (Ward Bond) from inflicting even more violence.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, in this “minor melodrama”, director Nicholas Ray once again explores one of his favorite themes — “males who [don’t] understand the reason for their violent natures, [and have] trouble controlling their impulses to lash out physically”. He notes that it’s “intense but not very convincing”, with Ida Lupino’s role as a blind mediator between Ryan’s rage and better instincts particularly forced; yet it still has much to recommend it, including Ryan (always compelling) in the lead role; a riveting score by Bernard Herrmann; smart dialogue (particularly that spoken by Charles Kemper as Ryan’s older partner, “Pop” Daly); and beautiful wintry scenery “up north”. It’s worth a look, and is must-see viewing simply as part of Ray’s iconic oeuvre.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Ryan as Jim Wilson
  • Charles Kemper as Pop Daly
  • George Diskant’s cinematography
  • Smart dialogue

    Wilson: How do you live with yourself?
    Pop Daly: I don’t! I live with other people.

  • Bernard Herrmann’s signature score (a clear precursor to his work on North by Northwest)

Must See?
Yes, as one of Ray’s earliest noteworthy films.

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One Response to “On Dangerous Ground (1952)”

  1. A once-must, as one of Ray’s early films.

    As noted, this is a “minor” film and it’s certainly true that some aspects of it aren’t all that convincing. But, with the aim of serving the story’s larger purpose, Ray compensates nicely through confident direction. The screenplay runs a mere 82 minutes, so the point here is going to have to be a simpler one. As a hardened cop, Ryan states – to Lupino – that he trusts no one. She responds as only a blind person can: she trusts everyone, she needs to. Naturally, it’s this major difference between them that will bring them together.

    One might prefer a bit more time so that certain details wouldn’t be rushed through but, overall, the film works well-enough.

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