On Dangerous Ground (1951)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Police Detective Film, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 17, 1951 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 82 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Obsession, despair, and hatred permeate the psyches of the leading men in On Dangerous Ground, creating a gritty, powerful, and unsettling film. That one of those leading men finds salvation -- convincingly and persuasively -- through the power of hope and love is a testament to director Nicholas Ray's special skills. True, the film does divide into two halves that don't quite connect, a fact that many viewers will find jarring. But those two halves are each so well done, and Ray so clearly believes that they should go together, that it's hard not to be won over. Ground is an unmistakably Ray feature, with human alienation and people struggling to cross the huge chasms that keep them from connecting with each bother prominently featured. Yet Ground also features a Ray rarity: a sweet, serene, genuinely happy ending. Ray is aided by the superlative work of his cast, especially Robert Ryan, Ida Lupino, and Ward Bond. Bond's obsessive hatred is made all the more powerful for being so understandable, and contrasts nicely with Ryan's, which is at base psychotic and threatens to destroy him. Ryan's work is absolutely fierce, yet he makes the transition to a gentler soul very convincingly. Lupino is, as usual, aces, finding complexities that would escape other actresses and using her special warmth to very good effect. There's also a driving Bernard Herrmann score and some sharp George E. Diskant photography, all adding up to a very satisfying and surprising noir variation.