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ON DANGEROUS GROUND

USA, 1951 (MIFF 1996, Ida Lupino - Actor)

Director: Nicholas Ray

" Garbage that s what we handle Garbage!" After a great deal of hard boiled noir and spirited action on RKO s studio streets Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan) a brutal big city cop spits these words out to his partner is confronted by his captain (Ed Begley) told he is at breaking point and transferred upstate to cool down. While there he has to track down the killer of a young girl all the while fending off the murderous impulses of her vengeful father (Ward Bond). The killer is spotted a chase through the snow ensues and the two men wind up in the cabin of the killers blind sister (Ida Lupino).

It is at this point that the film score emerges as the brutal cop slowly comes to care for and be humanised by the blind woman. This sudden change of emphasis is helped enormously by the performances of Robert Ryan whose screen persona is ideal in making an audience understand the torment beneath the armour and Ida Lupino in a change of pace after nearly a decade of playing seen it all tough city babes.

The films two part structure first noir then love story may account for its failure with audiences in 1951 but seen today both halves are entirely satisfying due to the vivid direction of Nicholas Ray (with an uncredited directorial contribution by Lupino due to Rays illness during shooting) and a superb music score by Bernard Herrmann whose use of a fox hunt motif during the chase sequences is masterful.

Critically ignored in its day On Dangerous Ground can now be seen as the beginning of Rays richest period culminating in Johnny Guitar, Rebel, Without a Cause and Bigger than Life. (GH)

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