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On Dangerous Ground (1951) Film Noir


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I just watched this movie starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan and boy was I blown away. I wasn't expecting ANYTHING like what I seen. The movie starts off in a dark, dreary atmosphere as Robert Ryan's character is a withdrawn, heavily-tempered street cop who is about to lose his job if he doesn't control himself from roughing up suspects. It is agreed that he go on assignment to Siberia where a young killer is on the lose. The trail leads up to an isolated area of snowy mountains. He then meets Ida Lupino's character, a lonely and dependant blind woman. Lupino's performance is up there with the best that I've ever seen. I won't give away any spoilers for those who havn't seen this movie yet, but I will just say that I absolutely LOVED the film.

 

Anyone else seen it and what are your thoughts?

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I saw it at the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco a few years ago and also really enjoyed it. Fine performances from Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, but what really knocked me out was the score by Bernard Herrmann. Ever since seeing this movie I'd searched for a soundtrack recording of it; finally getting it about six months ago. The thrilling opening credits music foreshadows later brilliance in North By Northwest and Vertigo...

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I saw this for the first time within the past two years and was also quite struck by the haunting Herrmann score, (especially in the Lupino scenes) and A.I. Bezzirides & Nicholas Ray's well written main character, George E. Diskant's dramatic b & w cinematography, and Robert Ryan's splendid acting. This film confirmed for me something about Ryan as an actor: no matter what, he never pandered to the audience's desire to like him. He refused to let his guard down or to have his character manipulate us into thinking, "Ahhh, he's really a nice guy after all." One can never be sure with Ryan.

 

I enjoyed the economical way that we are shown the families of his co-workers briefly, as when one of the cops, a father, who is watching tv with his growing brood, silently goes into the bedroom to get dressed for work---his wife helps him to prepare his "armour", physically and mentally---and then he goes down to the waiting car. In marked contrast we see Ryan, already looking as though he has indigestion as he eats his lonely meal in a bleak room illumined by a few paltry objects that tell us quite a bit about Ryan. There's his athletic trophy, his crucifix on the dresser, and what's he studying while he eats? Police pictures of known criminals. Perhaps that disgusted expression on Ryan's face is self-revulsion---not just a dogged determination to burn those grim features into his memory.

 

Not to be too Jungian, but there's a nice anima-animus reflection of Ryan in the two people he's with once he's exiled from the city to the country to help find the boy killer. Ryan's more humane instincts are embodied by the protective, gentle, blind Lupino character and every blessed, brutal impulse in him is personified by Ward Bond's grieving, frantic, blundering father hell-bent on revenge---forget all that understanding crap.

 

In one of the more harrowing scenes during the burnt out Ryan's brutalization of a suspect, he cries out to the guy he's pummeling, "Why do you make me do it? You know you're gonna talk - I'm gonna make you talk. I always make you punks talk! Why? Why?" Does he really expect an answer, except in his own soul? The end of the movie was softened under alleged pressure from the studio for a more conventional, redemptive ending, but I don't think that the future's going to be all lollipops and rainbows by any means.

 

Oh, and there are some nifty little parts filled out quite amply by a very young Nita Talbot as an underage bar girl and Olive Carey as the stoic mother of the murdered girl. Fine film, well done--Thanks for reminding me of it, HollywoodForties.

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This was a nice find. I had never heard of this film but it's great when you come across one like this one. Ryan, who has never been one of my favorites, was pretty good. I do seem to remember Ward Bond's character being a little much but it was enjoyable.

 

I disappoint myself in that I don't remember much about Herrmann's score so it goes back on my list.

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Great movie. Great thread. I actually like the city sequence better than the main story. Very effective atmosphere. Love the great Ed Begley as the police captain. Ryan is perfect in this type of role, for the dark psychological traits cited by Moira. A few days ago, I watched THE SET-UP. Another good one. One of those actors who pretty much never gave a bad performance.

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It has been a while since I saw this one. I saw it once as a teen on afternoon TV, Channel 43's Prize Movie. Then I think I saw it on AMC about ten or so years ago.

 

I remember the urban opening parts of the movie seemed run of the mill the second time I saw it, but the movie came to life when the action moved out into the wilderness. The score by Bernard Herrmann was terrific, and Ward Bond was really scary.

 

I remember that what first struck me when I saw the movie was here was a "Dirty Harry" from the Fifties, although I find this movie more interesting than "Dirty Harry."

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Something interesting about this great film is that, from what I've read, Nicholas Ray was sick throughout much of the shooting and Ida Lupino had to direct some of it. And that's how her directing career got started.

 

I really want to see Robert Ryan in 'Billy Budd'. I'm a big fan. He's awesome in The Set-Up, Caught, The Naked Spur, anything else he's in. I also really want to see him in Jean Renoir's Woman on the Beach. Anyone see Billy Budd or Woman on the Beach?

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I saw this film a very long time ago and it was one of the films that turned me on to the "real movies" - the classics. I have liked both actors ever since, Ida and Robert Ryan. I hate to say this and maybe I'm wrong - but they don't make films like this anymore. My daughter and I just watched a recent movie tonight (staying in a hotel room) - "The Family Stone" - I knew how it was to end 15 minutes into the film. Sad.

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moirafinnie6 - I can't tell you how much that I enjoyed your reply! Since I've only seen this movie once, there were several things that you brought back to my recollection of the movie. For instance, I didn't even catch the point of the scene where one of Ryan's fellow cops was at home with his family...and then switching directly to the scene of Ryan sitting alone...still obsessing over possible suspects' pictures. That was fantastic how the entire story was brought to life.

 

I must say that I thought the ending was very emotional and freeing! I rarely feel so emotionally involved with a movie as I did with this one. It is such a treat and so rewarding to find a hidden gem like On Dangerous Ground.

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Kathie2, I am in agreement with you 100%. They don't make movies like this anymore. I am 24 years old and I watch the classics exclusively. The only time I ever watch a recent release is when one of my friends suckers me into sitting through one. LOL

 

I would just rather not waste my time on modern movies because I am pretty busy and when I have time to watch a movie...I want to watch A REAL MOVIE! One from the Golden Era.

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I am so happy to hear you are such a devoted classic movie watcher..I also try to limit my watching to the classics when possible.

 

I hope there are others your age who share your appreciation. These films need to live on! My son, who is 25, also likes classics, especially Orson Welles and Noir films.

 

Please keep it up and spread the good word.

 

Thank you!

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HollywoodForties,

 

I can't write a review of "On Dangerous Ground" that approaches the quality of some of the messages already contributed. The content of my contribution is--"if you like 'On Dangerous Ground', you might like watching..."

 

All the movies I reference I have watched the last three months...1946 to 1960 was a great time for moody crime films. Well, we all know that...

 

The success of "On Dangerous Ground" is no accident. Some of the major "players" were creating some really good stuff, years 1946 to mid-1950s.

 

A.I. Bezzerides (adapted from his novel and he wrote the screenplay). I recently watched another Bezzerides penned movie--"Thieves' Highway". Highly recommended.

 

Nicholas Ray (director). Late 1940s and early 1950s was his peak directorial years. "In A Lonely Place" (1950) is a top notch psychological thriller. However, it has very little connection with the terrific novel of the same title. "They Live By Night" (1948) is a worthy Nicholas Ray effort. Broadcast on TCM occasionally.

 

Ida Lupino (director). Is Ida Lupino the most under-rated director of the early 1950s? She directed a film called "The Hitch-Hicker" (1953) that is one of my favorites of the 1950s and is an accomplished bit of story telling.

 

Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan (lead performers). Lupino and Ryan were paired in another film around the time "On Dangerous Ground" was released--"Beware, My Lovely" (1952). They do work well together...don't they? "Beware, My Lovely" was recently broadcast on TCM and worth a view.

 

Bernard Herrmann (music). "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (1951) and "The Ghost And Mrs. Muir" (1947) are outstanding Herrmann scores of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

 

A footnote:

I recently watched "The Ghost And Mrs. Muir" and I was delighted by the Bernard Herrmann score. One scene in particular remains in my thoughts as sooo good...well, perfect. The scene is early in the film...Mrs. Muir is riding in a vehicle with the real estate man, the road is on a bluff overlooking the ocean. She is about to see the haunted house. Herrmann's music, using only stringed instruments, manages to convey anticipation and mystery. I don't know how he (Herrmann) was able to score such a complex mix of emotions and clearly present them to the audience. What a wonderful moment. What a wonderful bit of music. Wow.

 

One element of "On Dangerous Ground" that is (somewhat) unusual for the time and the crime genre is moving the action from the seedy streets of some city to the wintry landscape outside the city. I "see" some of "On Dangerous Ground" re-hashed in the more recent crime movie--"Fargo". Am I wrong?

 

Rusty

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Rusty - I really appreciate that you have taken the time to inform me of the various different bits of information and movie suggestions! I have copied your reply and saved it in notepad to ensure that I will have it.

 

Bernard Herrmann's score is something that I failed to touch on in my previous posts. I thought that the music was an important element to the atmosphere and really contributed to the emotion of the movie. There are only a few music scores that I feel matches this one. Claude Debussy's score in Portrait of Jennie (1948) is just simply haunting and my favorite of all time, Escape Me Never (1947) has a fantastic score, although I cannot remember who composed it, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) which you already stated has a flawless score.

 

Thanks again for your suggestions and input, I appreciate it!

 

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HollywoodForties

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