Wednesday, August 7, 2013


My buddy Kelly Greene and I watched WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950) this afternoon. I had never seen this taut little film noir before and I loved it.

Robert Mitchum stars as Dr. Jeff Cameron, a good-guy doctor who saves the life of Margo (Faith Domergue) one night in a San Francisco hospital when she's brought in after attempting suicide. The two soon fall in love but there are a few things standing in the way of their happiness together.

Margo is a manic depressive, bi-polar woman given to moments of insanity. This is problem number one. Problem number two is Frederick Lannington (Claude Rains), whom Jeff believes to be Margo's father. He's not. Try husband instead. The angry, jealous man delivers a severe beating to Jeff which leaves him with a concussion (that's problem number three). And finally, Frederick ends up dead, the victim of an accident (or was it murder?). That's four big problems.

Jeff and Margo, both of whom are suffering from mental instability (she has fits of intense anger and rage while he has brief minutes of lucidity amidst a fog of confusion) flee the city. Their objective is to cross the border into Mexico where Margo has a large sum of money in a Mexico City bank. Along the way, they meet a series of corrupt and avaricious characters (a used car salesman, a crooked small town doctor, a seedy pawn shop owner and a slimy burlesque show manager, among others). All of these grotesque characters serve to make Jeff and Margo's situation progressively worse. As in all great noir, things start out bad and only go down hill from there. It's a race against time (Jeff's concussion is worsening) and space (they travel miles to reach the border). But it's a race only one of them will finish alive.

Directed by John Farrow, WHERE DANGER LIVES has a tight script by Charles Bennett (he wrote the screenplays for Hitchcock's THE 39 STEPS, YOUNG AND INNOCENT and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT) and brilliant black and white cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca. Mitchum plays against type as he's no tough guy cop or hood here. Instead, he's an innocent, decent man who gets sucked into a whirlpool of death and deceit by the oh-so-beautiful Faith Domergue. Domergue was a protege of Howard Hughes, who ran RKO Radio Pictures at the time and she made her film debut in WHERE DANGER LIVES. The dark haired beauty never became a big star and she never made the leap from B-pictures to A-films. She is fondly remembered by genre fans for her 1955 trifecta of CULT OF THE COBRA, THIS ISLAND EARTH and IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA. She was a busy woman that year. Claude Rains, as always is very good, but his part is very small (though important). He probably worked on this film for no more than a day.

WHERE DANGER LIVES is a classically constructed story of two people caught in a trap that just keeps getting tighter. It's a terrific little film and I loved every minute of it. If you're a film noir fan, you must see this film.

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