ON DANGEROUS GROUND  is a good solid little movie. I’ve read a bit of discussion on “tone” in films; what works…what doesn’t work. “ODG” doesn’t have a big grandiose sweeping story. It has a simple one, in fact. But THIS is a good example of what it looks like when tone is handled right. This movie has two halves and I think they mesh seamlessly and the tone for each half is appropriate.



ROBERT RYANCLEO MOORE ( ON DANGEROUS GROUND ) plays Detective Jim Wilson who works the night shift and catches The Bad Guys by any means necessary. And most times, what’s necessary…is a beat-down. When Jim asks rhetorically, “Why do you punks make me do it?!!!” My answer’d be: “…because you want to do it Jim, that’s why.” And when Jim gets the come-on by blonde bombshell Cleo Moore you just know that their dalliance will not include a bed strewn with rose petals. Jim can work out any uhmm…“kinks” and societal rejections suffered via his line of work, with this soft hard blonde. Who’d have thunk redemption would come to our hero through actually catching a murderer.

Director NICHOLAS RAY  draws us into the second half of the movie with a savage murder in a tight-knit, rural community upstate. He does this slow and easy with a car ride from an urban jungle to a snow-covered bucolic setting. He lets us get our bearings slow and easy, just as Jim gets his. We watch Jim’s heart melt in the snow. His brutishness is washed clean in the face of a blind woman.


My God, IDA LUPINO…I think she’s just fantastic here. Forget her brittle sexiness as the crazed ‘Lana Carlsen’ in They Drive By Night or her conniving manipulativeness as Helen in The Hard Way or her “questionable” prison warden in Women’s Prison. ( Well actually don’t forget it. That’s what makes me Ida…Ida Ida…I idolize ya! ) Here on dangerous ground Ida gives a heart-full performance. She’s as gentle as can be. She has strength… but it’s a different kind; not hard and brassy, but one filled with trust & faith ( “I have to trust everybody. ) And not in a saccharine way either. By the sheer force in her belief and her goodness, she gets tough hard brutal Jim Wilson to make her a promise; a promise to bring her brother, the young girl’s murderer, to justice safely. And he doesn’t commit to this promise easily.


As Robert Ryan’s detec- tive’s heart and point of view shifts, we have Ward Bond  as the grie- ving father ( Mr. Brent ) of the murdered girl. Let me tell you, his anger and grief are ferocious. Right off the bat it’s Country vs. City Slicker. Actually, Ward Bond seems like the Detec-tive’s former self: brutal, wild, shoot first and ask questions later…maybe. ( Ha! At that moment I thought the only actor alive not scared of Robert Ryan would be Ward Bond ). Bond is where Ryan used to be. When they tussled, it felt to me like Ryan was fighting his former self. I’m trying not to put any spoilers in my blog post, but your safe bet is to watch this classic before you read my entry. There’s so much that goes on that causes a man to go from that to this and Nicholas Ray eases us through his process. We go through the process too.


I’m not sure which side of the musical metronome Bernard Hermann falls with you, but my heart strings will always follow Bernie’s violins anywhere. But besides his music, which I think underscores and enhances the plot, I felt I was led by events; …Ryan’s promise to Lupino…Ward Bond’s venge-filled intent…a boy…a chase…a promise.


Out there in the cold, white snow…there’s forgiveness and redemption. I think Nicholas Ray handles it seamlessly in “On Dangerous Ground.” As for Robert Ryan..wellllllll, the man is a chameleon. He plays good guys. He plays bad guys. He plays good bad guys and bad good guys. And I might say the same for Lupino to some extent. Ryan’s had such a variety of roles throughout his career. If you want to get a handle on ROBERT RYAN’s screen persona \/  you just have to remember one thing:


He will make you believe anything.


(  H O M E  )


13 thoughts on “ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952)

  1. Great intro to a wonderful movie, Theresa. it’s one of my favorite Rays, along with In a Lonely Place and They Live by Night.It’s one of Herrmann’s best scores not for a movie by Hitchcock or Welles. He also wrote the music for most of Orson’s radio plays. It’s very interesting to sometimes hear a bit of a tune that was later used in Jane Eyre or The Magnificent Ambersons. You may have noticed in the credits the name of the viola d’amore player. Benny was so pleased with her performance that he wanted her to be credited. The producer said Okay, if you want to share your card. The only other time I know of when that happened was on Citizen Kane when Orson shared his card with Gregg Toland.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marvin.Go see Mary Poppins; you won't be sorry, and Victor, Victoria as well! See you at Gee Whiz. on said:

    Hey T,
    Great article as always! Yes both Ryan and Lupino are superb (as always) and I wish that they had made several more films together. I can watch On Dangerous Ground over and over, again and again and will as often as possible.
    Oh yes thanks to the incomparable Nicholas Ray who remains unique an one of the best movie directors ever! Anyone who has not seen In A Lonely Place must do so!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there Marvin. Lupino and Ryan were a great match. Hmmmmm, makes me wonder what SHE would have done with Stanwyck’s CLASH BY NIGHT. But at least Lupino and Ryan got to do BEWARE MY LOVELY. Tell me if you have time, what makes you WANT to watch “On Dangerous Ground” repeatedly? Thank you again for reading my little ol’ blog…and for taking the time to make a comment.

      Oooooh… IN A LONELY PLACE. I’ve got to write about that one when I start talking about my 1950’s faves. That was a great film.


  3. Ward Bond is a dark mirror that Jim must look into. He sees a man who is even more out of control than he is. I like your statement: “We watch Jim’s heart melt in the snow. His brutishness is washed clean in the face of a blind woman.” A country girl, Mary’s heart is not tainted by the darkness of the city. Jim regains his lost humanity with her. I wrote a short post on On Dangerous Ground called “The Ethics of Consequentialism.” If you would like to read it, here is the link: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/on-dangerous-ground/

    Liked by 1 person

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