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On Dangerous Ground (1951)

7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 3,359 users  
Reviews: 66 user | 32 critic

Hard, withdrawn city cop Jim Wilson roughs up one too many suspects and is sent upstate to help investigate the murder of a young girl in the winter countryside. There he meets Mary Malden,... See full summary »

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, (uncredited)

Writers:

(screenplay), (adaptation), 2 more credits »
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Title: On Dangerous Ground (1951)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Mary Malden
...
Jim Wilson
...
Walter Brent
Charles Kemper ...
Pop Daly
Anthony Ross ...
Pete Santos
...
Capt. Brawley
...
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 (as Pat Prest)
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Storyline

Hard, withdrawn city cop Jim Wilson roughs up one too many suspects and is sent upstate to help investigate the murder of a young girl in the winter countryside. There he meets Mary Malden, whom he finds attractive and independent. However, Mary's brother is chief suspect in the killing. And Mary herself is blind. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

In One Strange Night she met both LOVE ... and MURDER!


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 June 1952 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Dark Highway  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After being completed, the film was shelved for two years, which was not uncommon in RKO under the control of Howard Hughes. Upon Hughes insistence, 10 minutes was cut out of the film, and a scene which originally was just before the ending, the assassination of Myrna, was moved to the ending of the first part of the film. See more »

Goofs

After Ward Bond knocks the lamp over, starting a fire, Ida Lupino brings a lantern from the kitchen and places it on the end table where the lamp had been. A few minutes later however, when she brings the tea tray, the table is on its side and Robert Ryan hurries to right it before she trips on it. See more »

Quotes

Jim Wilson: 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 do you do it? Why?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in History Is Made at Night (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

How Long Did I Dream?
(uncredited)
Music by Jimmy Van Heusen
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Garbage, all we handle is garbage.
10 January 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

On Dangerous Ground is directed by Nicholas Ray and stars Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan & Ward Bond. It's loosely adapted by Ray and A. I. Bezzerides from Gerald Butler's novel Mad With Much Heart. Cinematography is by George E. Diskant & the music is provided by Bernard Herrmann & Paul Sawtell. The story concerns Ryan's weary, lonely and psychologically bothered cop, Jim Wilson. Who after finally snapping the patience of his superiors is sent to Westham in the rural north to aid a murder case there. The idea is to get him off the streets he's so bitter about and to stop him finally going over the violence tinged edge. It's here, amongst the wintry landscapes, that he is brought into contact with Mary Malden (Lupino). A practically blind woman, Mary holds all the keys to the mystery and to the door at the end of Wilson's journey.

Right from the outset we are in no doubt that Nicholas Ray is about to take us on a noir journey. Herrmann's pulse like score accompanies its nighttime opening, Diskant's photography immediately painting a harsh city where life on the streets is tough. A place where loneliness can eat away at the soul and bleakness pours down off of the bars and the cheaply built apartments. It is in short, firmly encapsulating of Jim Wilson's bitterness and frame of mind. Wilson, once a prime athlete, is mired in solitude, his only telling contribution to society is his work, but that is ebbing away by the day. His mood is not helped by his partners, Pop & Pete, who can easily switch off once their shift has finished; but they have family to go home too, Wilson does not. Wilson's only source of joy comes courtesy of the paperboy he briefly plays football with out on the street (a rare ray of light in the film's moody atmospheric first half).

Then the film shifts for its second act, a shift that has made On Dangerous Ground a most divisive picture in discussions over the years. Sent north to effectively cool down by Captain Brawley (Ed Begley), we find Wilson leaving behind the dank city and entering the snowbound countryside in the north. Dark has become light as it were. The whole style and pace of the film has changed, yet this is still a place tainted by badness. A girl has been murdered and Wilson is still here to locate potential evil. An evil that the murdered girls father (Ward Bond as Walter Brent) wants to snuff out with his own vengeful fury. As the two men track down the killer, Wilson sees much of himself in Brent's anger, but once the guys arrive at Mary Malden's isolated cabin, things shift just a little more.

Said to be a favourite of Martin Scorsese, and an influence for Taxi Driver, On Dangerous Ground has often been called Nicholas Ray's best film by some of his fans (I'd say In A Lonely Place personally). Odd then that Ray himself wasn't happy with the film, calling it a failure and not the finished product he had envisaged. Ray had wanted a three structured movie, not the two part one it is; with the final third being far bleaker and more noirish than the one we actually get. However, and the ending is a bit scratchy for the genre it sits in, it's still a fabulous film that is more about the journey of its protagonist than the diversity caused by its finale. Ryan is terrific, a real powerhouse and believable performance, while Lupino beautifully realises Mary's serene impact on Wilson and the counter opposite to the darkness within the picture. It's a given really, but Herrmann's score is potent, listen out for the opening, the crossover section from city to countryside and the rock face pursuit. While Ray directs with his customary knack of blending the grim with the almost poetic. 8/10


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