On Dangerous Ground
Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond, Ed Begley,
Nicholas Ray’s study of the vigilante mentality is here personified in one pent-up, brutalizing cop. Ray pegs the impulse toward vengeance, like that of forgiveness, as a personal moment, even when it belongs to the crowd. Robert Ryan’s Jim Wilson is a particular kind of big-city neurotic, tortured by his cheerless existence. On the streets, he is judge and jury: we are all guilty of being human. Wilson is banished temporarily to Twin Peaks country, where a mentally disturbed killer is being protected by his sister (Ida Lupino), and the townsfolk, led by a murdered girl’s father (Ward Bond), are out for blood. Lupino plays a blind woman; we hear her before we see her, and the deep resonance of her voice alters the tone of the film. She becomes seer to Ryan’s cop who can’t close his eyes. Set to a Bernard Herrmann score, the glistening urban noir gives way to a moody snowscape where understanding and redemption come, as always in these fatalistic films, a few heartbeats too late.