On Dangerous Ground (1951)

“Sometimes people who are never alone are the loneliest.” An eclectic film noir directed by Nicholas Ray and produced by John Houseman for RKO, On Dangerous Ground disorients viewers by moving from the gritty city scene of sleazy bars and cheap motels to the bleak, snowy countryside. Tough, ruthless police detective “Jim Wilson” (Robert Ryan), who is on the verge of a mental breakdown, beats the shit out of one too many suspects (who he refers to as “human garbage”) and is sent upstate to the wintry backwoods to help solve a murder case. There he is forced to team up with the infuriated father of the victim, “Walter Brent” (Ward Bond), who simply wants to get to the suspect first and kill him. Wilson also befriends the murder suspect’s sister, a sensitive blind woman named “Mary Malden” (Ida Lupino) who leads him on the path to redemption. The film, which was based on Gerald Butler’s 1946 novel Mad with Much Heart, features solid acting, great cinematography by George E. Diskant (They Live by Night) and an excellent score by Bernard Herrmann. The cast includes Charles Kemper as “Pop Daly,” Anthony Ross as “Pete Santos” and Ed Begley as “Capt. Brawley.” Also look for Cleo Moore as “Myrna Bowers,” doomed “bad girl,” and Nita Talbot (“Marya” in Hogan’s Heroes) as “Woman in Bar.” Ray’s nephew, Sumner Williams, portrays deranged killer “Danny Malden.”

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