Film Review – ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951)

ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951, USA) ***½
Drama, Film-Noir
dist. RKO Radio Pictures; pr co. RKO Radio Pictures; d. Nicholas Ray; w. A.I. Bezzerides, Nicholas Ray (based on the novel “Mad with Much Heart” by Gerald Butler); pr. John Houseman; ph. George E. Diskant (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Bernard Herrmann; ed. Roland Gross; ad. Ralph Berger, Albert S. D’Agostino; rel. 12 December 1951 (USA), 14 November 1951 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 82m.
cast: Ida Lupino (Mary Malden), Robert Ryan (Jim Wilson), Ward Bond (Walter Brent), Charles Kemper (Pop Daly), Anthony Ross (Pete Santos), Ed Begley (Capt. Brawley), Ian Wolfe (Sheriff Carrey), Sumner Williams (Danny Malden), Gus Schilling (Lucky), Frank Ferguson (Willows), Cleo Moore (Myrna Bowers), Olive Carey (Mrs. Brent), Richard Irving (Bernie Tucker), Patricia Prest (Julie Brent).
Interesting and intense character drama sees Ryan play a rough city cop who is disciplined by his captain and sent upstate, to a snowy mountain town, to help the local sheriff solve a murder case. There he questions his own approach during a murder manhunt which brings him into contact with the fugitive’s blind sister, played by Lupino. The key theme is of redemption plays out a little awkwardly as what made Ryan the way he was in the big city is only hinted at and never fully explored. Ray directs his actors well and the film is constantly moving, with the director’s frequent use of the hand-held camera during action sequences adding a level of urgency. With the help of Diskant’s striking photography (particularly using the Colorado Rockies location) and Herrmann’s evocative score, Ray elevates the film above the level of its script, producing an often-engrossing tale. Lupino directed the film for several days when Nicholas Ray fell ill.