A city cop battling inner demons is sent up-state to ‘Siberia’
to assist in a man-hunt after bashing one too many suspects
(1952 RKO. Directed by Nicholas Ray 82 mins)
Cinematography by George E. Diskant
Screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides & Nicholas Ray from the
Gerald Butler novel ‘Mad with Much Heart”
Original Music by Bernard Herrmann
Art Direction by Albert S. D’Agostino and Ralph Berger
Starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino
On Dangerous Ground is visually stunning and without a wasted frame or line of dialog. Director Nicholas Ray with the support of a talented team of film-makers has wrought a melodramatic noir with a dark beauty and haunting characterisations. Leads Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino are so deeply immersed in their roles that they remain in your memory as real people inhabiting a white and craggy landscape steeped in a tragedy redeemed only by sacrifice and human compassion.
Ryan’s Jim Wilson is a cop, a sad loner with a seething anger that has it origins in loneliness and an existential despair that is directed against the low-lifes who inhabit the dark city streets he patrols nightly with his two partners. Wilson is keen and tough, but is starting to lose control and his violent methods have got him into trouble. He is sent up-state to help out on a local murder investigation by his captain, and told to sort himself out. The action moves from the dark city streets to the high snow country where Wilson joins the man-hunt for the savage killer of a school-girl. After a sighting of the suspect in the snow, Wilson and the girl’s enraged father give chase, and track the attacker to a lonely home in the mountains, where a young blind woman, Mary (Lupino), lives with her disturbed adolescent brother.
The story and its resolution traverse a dramatic arc that moves from the blackness and confinement of city streets and tenements to the expansive whiteness of the snow country. The noir motif of stark chiaroscuro lighting is transformed into a metaphor for a liberation from confinement to openness; from personal isolation and distrust to reaching out to the other with trust; from despair, hatred, and self-loathing to hope, compassion and love.