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On Dangerous Ground
On Dangerous Ground
Director: Nicholas Ray
Genres: Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
NR     1hr 22min


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Movie Details

Director: Nicholas Ray
Creators: Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond
Genres: Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Thrillers, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Warner Brothers
Format: DVD - Black and White
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1952
Run Time: 1hr 22min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)

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Movie Reviews

A Powerful Film
Kurt Harding | Boerne TX | 08/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While I certainly don't claim to be an expert on film making as the first reviewer apparently is, I do know what I like, and I really like On Dangerous Ground.
First, I like the storyline. A police story like this couldn't happen today. A rogue officer who beat information out of suspects, even those who deserved a beating or worse, would be quickly pilloried in the press and most likely fired and charged with some offense. In this film, Robert Ryan's character was merely sent upstate to help in a rural murder case while the public uproar over his brutality subsided. But the film is not just about the mean streets and police brutality, it is about a man who discovers and comes to terms with his real self and in the end is redeemed by love.
Secondly, I like the film-makers technique. The city streets are ever wet and grimy, while the rural mountainous area to which Ryan is sent is unrelentingly cold and bleak. The picture painted of a cold world is one that carries on throughout the film. One of the few spots of warmth is in the house where the blind Ida Lupino lives with her deranged brother.
Next, I like the mostly on-location shoots. Though the upstate "Siberia" to which Ryan's character was sent is putatively in New York, it was actually filmed mostly on location in Colorado lending an air of rural authenticity to the film it would otherwise not have. The locale, though bleak and cold, has its own majestic natural grandeur. Anyway, it LOOKS like Colorado (or California) and not New York, so until I read more about the film, I thought that Ryan was an LA cop rather than with the NYPD.
Lastly, the acting is first-rate. Ryan's transformation is spell-binding, and Lupino's role performed with aplomb. Ward Bond is excellent as an enraged father sworn to violently avenge the murder of his daughter.
If you are a fan of the film noir genre and have yet to see On Dangerous Ground, then you are in for a treat. The only negative comment I have to make is that in the commentary feature, Glenn Erickson natters on too long about the admittedly glorious score composed by Bernard Herrmann and misses commenting on a few scenes which would benefit from some clarification.
Noir in the snow . . .
Ronald Scheer | Los Angeles | 08/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This terrific 1950 film follows the descent and redemption of a big city police detective (Robert Ryan), alienated and emotionally isolated by the corrosive nature of his work and sent "upstate" by his boss (Ed Begley) to help the locals track down a killer. Upstate turns out to be Colorado, where much of the film was shot, knee deep in snow. There he teams up with the enraged father of the victim (Ward Bond), armed and determined to take the law into his own hands. And he also befriends a blind woman (Ida Lupino), who turns out to be the sister of the hunted man.

Removed from the dark, mean streets of the city and the morally compromised women that his work brings him in contact with, our (anti)hero discovers another world that calls to his higher instincts, both as a cop and as a man. In true Hays Code fashion, the cynicism characteristic of the hard-boiled crime fiction that gave birth to film noir is transformed in the end by the love a decent woman.

John Houseman produced this well-made film and Nicholas Ray directed. The sun-swept exteriors of wintertime Colorado are a visually striking contrast to the stylized urban shadow world of dark streets and low-rent hotel rooms. Camera work is inventive, and the Bernard Hermann score is sweeping and pulse quickening. The DVD has an informative scene-by-scene commentary that highlights the film's cinematic achievements while exploring its relationship to the genre of film noir and its place in the careers of the filmmaker and the cast."
Strong Elements in Spite of Narrative Weakness.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 10/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

""On Dangerous Ground" is based in part on the British novel "Mad with Much Heart", written for the screen by the renowned A. I. Bezzerides and director Nicholas Ray. Bezzerides and Ray altered the book's themes considerably and added the urban sequences for which the film is best remembered, turning the story into a character study of urban alienation and rural redemption. Neither Bezzerides nor Ray were pleased with the final result though. They didn't like the ending. This was a Howard Hughes production and, accordingly, suffered reshoots and delays. Sometimes Hughes ruined movies with his obsessive tinkering; sometimes he improved them. After its first edit, "On Dangerous Ground" underwent a major reorganization that changed the structure of the film and eliminated the third act. Oddly, this doesn't seem to matter beyond delaying the film's release for 2 years. Rearrange the pieces, and they add up to the same thing.

Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan) is a city police detective, and 11-year veteran of the mean streets. He lives alone, seldom socializes, dedicating himself to ridding the world of crime. His partners are worried about Jim. He can't leave his job at work. He carries the stresses of police work around with him all the time. He's anxious and increasingly violent. When Jim roughs up a suspect to the point of serious injury, police chief Captain Brawley (Ed Begley) sends him to assist a small-town sheriff in a murder investigation upstate. A young girl has been killed by a man while walking home from school. The girl's father Walter Brent (Ward Bond) is a single-minded farmer who won't stop until he has killed the man who killed his daughter. A frantic manhunt is underway, chasing the suspect across the countryside. The chase leads Jim and Brent to the isolated home of Mary Malden (Ida Lupino), a gentle blind woman with something to hide.

"On Dangerous Ground" failed at the box office when it was released in 1952. Critics thought that the urban first half hour of the film and the following 50 minutes of rural action felt like 2 different films. They found Mary Malden's dialogue too maudlin and the final scenes too sentimental. I have to agree with them. But in hindsight it is easier to see the film's successes along with its failures. Actor Robert Ryan and cinematographer George E. Diskant make "On Dangerous Ground" worthwhile. One of the great character actors of his day, Robert Ryan delivers quite an arc as Jim Wilson, a man so sensitized to cruelty that he embraces it. A trip to the countryside, where he comes face to face with a hick version of himself, turns his self-destructive tendencies on end.

Film noir fans gravitate toward the first 30 minutes of "On Dangerous Ground". Jim Wilson is a man consumed by the brutality he tries to stamp out. He's about to self-destruct in noir fashion. But the naturalistic photography of nighttime city streets by George E. Diskant may be the most stunning of its kind. All of the urban scenes take place at night, and they're all beautiful. A striking combination of neo-realist and low-key styles. The many shots from inside moving vehicles are great. Then we move to the snow-covered countryside, filmed on location in Colorado. Now everything is white. If the story doesn't grab you, the photography will. This is also one of Bernard Herrmann's most notable film scores, which successfully stands in for dialogue during the chase scenes. "On Dangerous Ground" doesn't tell a great story, but it does showcase some wonderful work.

The DVD (Warner Brothers 2006): Bonus features are a theatrical trailer (2 min) and an audio commentary by film critic and historian Glenn Erickson. Erickson's commentary is scripted, informative, and continuous. He interviewed A.I. Bezzerides in 1997, so is able to contribute Bezzerides' view of the film. Erickson addresses the film's cinematography, themes, characters, actors, dialogue, and score in scene-by-scene analyses. He relates the history of the production, compares the film to the novel, and talks about the editorial re-organization that restructured the film. Subtitles are available for the film in English, French, and Spanish."
Mad With Much Heart
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 09/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"On Dangerous Ground is a flawed favorite, boasting an exceptional performance from Robert Ryan as a man as much attracted as repulsed by his own capacity for violence - the look on his face before beating a suspect into the hospital, the almost sexual glee tinged with disgust as he repeats "Why do you make me do it?" to justify his own imminent enjoyment to himself give him a disturbingly raw emotional violence that's far more worrying than anything his fists can do. Even Ward Bond's distraught and vengeful father of a murder victim is disturbed by the joy of the hunt he finds in that face. Nicholas Ray's camerawork is similarly on the brink of falling to pieces in the opening city section, eavesdropping in and out of windows and windscreens before erupting into a brutal alley chase shot with a bold use of handheld camera that's still seems shockingly vital for a 50s studio picture. They're both matched blow for blow by Bernard Herrmann's strikingly violent score, with a main title like a sword slashing through flesh and striking bone but with passages beautifully underlining the loneliness and sadness behind the savagery. Mad With Much Heart indeed.

Even the prolonged section with Ida Lupino's blind woman and the possibility of another, more compassionate way of life avoids mawkishness, not least because pity is neither sought nor given. Only the miraculous ending doesn't work. Whether this is due to the 10 minutes of studio-imposed cuts and the re-editing and restructuring the film went through during more than a year on the shelf or whether it was always a problem we'll probably never know (it would have been nice to have included the script as an extra, especially since Glenn Erickson's scripted audio commentary is often awkwardly delivered and often lacks the substance of others in the Film Noir boxed set). There is definitely the feeling that the whole third act of the movie has gone, making Ryan's decision seem almost arbitrary and not allowing us to see if he really has changed back on his home ground. Indeed, it probably would have been better to have ended the film a minute earlier with the almost purgative drive back to the city. But so much of what has gone before is so remarkable that it's a failure you can forgive.