In a Lonely Place

Director Nick Ray must have been after the corrosive core of doubt and mistrust lying at the center of Dorothy B. Hughes's most pathological novel when he took on Andrew Solt's terrific adaptation. Why? Because Hughes's riveting story about Dix Steele, a serial killer trolling the streets of Los Angeles for women, was discarded like one of the novel's many victims. Still, this repurposing of Dix (Humphrey Bogart as good as he gets) as a faltering Hollywood scriptwriter with anger management problems churns up the same unsettling suspicions for all those around him. When a coat-check girl is found brutally murdered, Dix becomes a prime suspect. The investigation madly irks him, prodding his worst impulses to violently surface. At the same time, he falls deeply for his neighbor, the leafy Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame, then Ray's estranged wife). Ray plays these bipolar moods off of each other and in so doing creates a brand of wracked romance that is equal measures love and fear. Whether Dix is a murderer or not falls away and what Laurel is left pondering is that lonely place where Dix's rage quietly stirs.

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