- Robert Ryan plays Jim Wilson in Nicholas Ray’s One Dangerous Ground. Wilson is a rough cop that bends the rules (paving the way for Russell Crowe’s Bud White in L.A. Confidential maybe) and has seen too much of the streets.
- There is a great scene of Wilson’s two partners picking each other up by laying in the horn outside of their apartments. When a stool pigeon tells Ryan’s Wilson that he (the stool pigeon) is sick, and that he doesn’t feel good, Ray (and Ryan) tell you everything you need to know about the Wilson character by his lack of reaction and empathy.
- Ryan is damn good here, scowling and yelling “why do you make me do it?” while be beats up a criminal- he is severely out of control.
- This is a character study- and a rich one at that even at the 81-minute running time. At his solitary apartment (and this is really a study in loneliness s much as anything) Wilson has an old athletic trophy, no coffee, it is a pitiful, unwelcoming home.
- Ray deftly uses a handheld camera at the 25-minute mark as he pushes through an urban alley.
- At the 29-minute mark the film shifts almost completely. Ryan’s Wilson is assigned up state and meets the simple-minded vigilante (played by a spot-on dumb muscle casting with Ward Bond at least equal to Ryan physically) and eventually the blind Mary Malden (played by Ida Lupino) who is to be Wilson’s salvation. It is 40-minutes (almost exactly halfway) before Lupino shows up on screen. And really- it is her movie pretty much from there on out. Wilson is dumbfounded by her goodness and she is also lonely of course. Ray’s camera uses many close-ups of Lupino and Lupino’s work should be praised. She plays May without any laughs or pity.
- The film doesn’t have the artistic reach of Ray’s best work (not exactly fulfilling the promise of 1948’s They Live By Night- one of the greatest debuts of the 1940s this side of Citizen Kane), but it is an entertaining noir/thriller nonetheless. On Dangerous Ground is actually a bigger triumph for Bernard Herrmann than it is for Ray- which is rare. Herrmann is a genius of course, and this is one of his finest (though certainly not as well known as Vertigo, Taxi Driver, or Psycho as the film does not measure up to those masterpieces). In the big chase scene Herrmann even rifts brilliantly off the sort of English fox hunt.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1951
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