We now have one last noir for the month of “Noir-vember,” and that would be the 1951 film On Dangerous Ground, starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinkfinger (1965)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 15 seconds)
The Pink Panther takes on a ring of spies. Bit of fun, with the narrator prompting the Panther to take on various spies. No doubt a reflection on the popularity of the then-recent James Bond films. A lot of fun here, and one of the more memorable Pink Panther cartoons (at least for me)!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Detective Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan), along with his partners Bill “Pop” Daly (Charles Kemper) and Pete Santos (Anthony Ross), are hunting down a pair of cop killers. Jim is getting increasingly frustrated, and when they find one of the killers’ accomplices, he really roughs him up to find out their location. The next day, Jim is summoned by Captain Brawley (Ed Begley), who warns him to cut out the rough stuff, as the accomplice’s lawyer is threatening to sue. Later that night, Jim and his partners are cruising the streets when they find a few thugs beating up a woman. Jim catches up to one of them and starts to rough him up before being stopped by one of his partners. Captain Brawley is less than thrilled to hear about this, and assigns Jim a murder investigation in a more rural area up north until things calm down. Jim drives up north, and he meets up with Sheriff Carey (Ian Wolfe), who directs him to the Brent family home. Jim tries to find out what he can about the girl who was murdered, when her father, Walter Brent (Ward Bond), comes in and makes everyone stop talking. They receive word that the murderer has been sighted, and they all go off in pursuit. Jim ends up with Walter (who is less than thrilled to be stuck with a city cop, since he wants to shoot the murderer himself), and they borrow someone else’s car when the murderer steals another one. When the snow starts really coming down, they end up crashing, not far from the car they were following. On foot again, they find a lone farmhouse. Inside, they meet Mary Malden (Ida Lupino), who tells them nobody is there. Jim quickly realizes that she is blind, and tries to be kind to her. They quickly realize she is not the only one who has been there, and she tells them her brother, Danny (Sumner Williams), also lives there, but is not there currently. Walter doesn’t believe her, and he, along with Jim, start looking around outside. Jim comes back in, and learns that her brother is there, but has a mental illness. She believes that her brother should turn himself in, but to Jim, as Walter is angry enough to kill her brother. Jim is convinced by her, and tries to promise to keep Danny safe. Before anything else can happen, Walter comes back in, and Mary offers the two of them a place to stay overnight. In the morning, Mary sneaks outside to the storm cellar, where Danny is hiding, and tries to convince him to go along with Jim. After she leaves, Jim stops her, and Danny makes a run for it. With Walter hot on their heels, the question remains: as much as Jim has come to care for Mary in such a short time, can he manage to save Danny, or will Walter’s thirst for revenge win out?
On Dangerous Ground was based on the novel Mad With Much Heart by Gerard Butler. Director Nicholas Ray came across it while he was working on another project, and it was submitted as something for him to work on later. However, some of the readers at RKO studios didn’t think it was suitable for filming. Still, producer John Houseman was able to secure the rights for the story, especially when actor Robert Ryan expressed interest in the role. There was some discussion with the police departments in Los Angeles and Boston, who were pleased to see the idea of police violence would be treated openly. Originally, the film’s ending was supposed to be a bit more of a downer, but actors Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino were able to convince the director to give the movie a happier ending.
I’ve only had the opportunity so far to see this movie twice, but it has been one I’ve enjoyed seeing both times. I’m really impressed with Robert Ryan’s performance here as a cop going bad. We see how, unlike his partners who have a life apart from their jobs, he takes his work home with him, and, in so doing, gets more and more of a bad impression of the world (not helped by all the people complaining to his face about what the cops are doing). We see him getting bad, and we also see the police captain trying to sweep the problem under the rug by having him go elsewhere. And that idea almost backfires, with Ward Bond’s character complaining about him being a city cop, as he seeks his own vengeance, while Robert Ryan’s Jim does little to stop him (at first). It’s only luck that he meets Ida Lupino’s Mary, who gets him to soften back up and be human again. And Robert Ryan isn’t the only good actor here, as everybody does their part well (including director Nicholas Ray’s nephew Sumner Williams as Danny, whose actions seem too relevant today, especially to the many women who complain, and rightfully so, about men wanting them to “smile” to be more beautiful). It’s not my absolute favorite noir, but it’s a good one, and I certainly would recommend it!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.
Now, before I sign off, in case you’re wondering, since I have been reviewing noirs for the month of November every Sunday for the last few years (and yet, as I said before, this is the last one I’m reviewing for this month, even though there is one Sunday left), my plan is to start in on the Christmas holiday films starting next week. If I don’t, I would otherwise only have three Sundays to work with in December before the holiday itself, and, since it will be past Thanksgiving anyways, I figured I would start in and still get in my four films for the year!
Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes
My Rating: 8/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Ida Lupino
The Sky’s The Limit (1943) – Robert Ryan – The Tall Men (1955)