Friday, October 01, 2010

Finding Love on Dangerous Ground: A Film Noir Worth Spending Some Time With ...

For lovers of film noir, take a look at Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground, one of my favorites. The DVD version offers, among its extras, a highly instructive commentary by film editor and critic Glenn Erickson about director Ray (In A Lonely Place, Rebel Without a Cause), the film and film noir in general. For serious movie buffs, Erickson's clear analysis of how the movie was originally shot and then extensively edited, post production, is worth the price of admission.

Ground has a memorable score by one of Hollywood's greats, Bernard Hermann, a score of symphonic depth that, at its best, captures in delicate tones the inherent sadness central to the lead characters. Erickson contends that what Ray gave us is a sensitive character study much more than a cop movie. With that I'd agree. He even makes a persuasive argument for the affirmative ending that was added well after principal shooting wrapped in 1950. The studio, RKO, was run by the incessantly meddling Howard Hughes, who held back on releasing it until early 1952.

On Dangerous Ground shifts mid way from the dark and moody rain-swept streets of a big city by night -- very noirish -- to the open snow-covered mountains where a killer is on the loose. The story follows the journey of a jaded and angry police detective named Jim Wilson, played by Robert Ryan, who ultimately finds redemption in a fragile connection to a blind woman essayed with tender conviction by Ida Lupino.

It's interesting to consider how the extensive changes made to the film after it wrapped may have actually improved its impact. Erickson, a superb teacher, leads us through the many script revisions, first from novel to screenplay, then in post production work. When finally released, the movie suffered generally negative notices; it would take decades to reach the acclaim of film scholars and buffs. Today, On Dangerous Ground is regarded as a film noir classic.

I highly recommend your taking a look.


Harry Kingston said...

RKO, Radio pictures turned out some good films and some great ones to.
Not up with MGM and Warner Bros they turned out two of the most famous films of all time.
Citizen Kane and King Kong, two of the most famous of all time.
Kong had them lined up around the block at Radio City and the Roxey as the folks liked Kong so much.
Val Lewton used lighting effects and shadows to scare folks as money was tight instead of an expensive set.
As a film nut as well as a circus one and seeing many RKO-Radio pictues on TCM I have noticed the film quality such as razor sharp focus and perfect exposure of the film.
But a job well done at RKO.
Howard Hughes, it was just a play toy with him and meddling how about the Outlaw with Jane-Hooters -Russell. And the censors loved Hughes and he told them to go to hell.
RKO, never ueed Technicolor until Hughes took over the ownership.

Showbiz David said...

I could not agree with you more, Harry, oh King Kong and Citizen Kane, both monumental achievements in cinema. They also did, I think, all the Astaire Rogers musicals. Not MGM, but plenty good for the time.

Harry Kingston said...

Yes sir RKO-Radio did do the Astie and Rogers film and in my mind I can hear the Continental being played now.
And if it were not for the great success of good old King Kong there would have not been the Astire-Rogersz films.
Kong saved the day for RKO-Radio.
Kong made lots of depression money for them.
And the studio had Max Steiner for there music until big Warner Bros got him you can bet for lots more money.
Steiner's music made Kong as his music ran when they ran and in the shrine auditorium the King Kong March was played while he was on stage.
RKO paid $25,000 for the music in 1932.
Man the good old days and if both had a King Kong 1 sheet we could retire for ever.
Harry in Texas

Showbiz David said...

Max Steiner, he and Hollywood, especially noir, were born for each other, Harry. No studio logo excites me quite like Warner's, the old one in b&w, AND the surging turbulent music that came with it, possible composed by Steiner? It promises terrific drama ahead. Another top film composer was Franz Waxman (Sunset Boulevard, A Place in the Sun).

Harry Kingston said...

We are right along the same lines as I like Warner Bros the best of all.
When that sheild comes on yes you know you are going to see a class picture.
And just to think RKO-Radio had Steiner and then he went to Warners.
They also they had Eric Wolfgang Korngold as well as Waxman.
The music is so good you can feel it within.
Betty Davis said one time am I going to have to come down the damn steps with Max Steiner.
Warners did many Technicolor films and Robin Hood with Flynn is one of my favorites.
Flynn had to have Alan Hale and Guinn-Big Boy-Williams. Next time when Dodge City comes on watch Guinn as he is a real gun slinger as he slings those guns.
Thank God for film as we will never see the likes of these real movie stars again.
The movies back then were real art.
Gone but not for gotten.