Where Danger Lives

Robert Mitchum in Where Danger Lives (dir. John Farrow, 1950).

Faith Domergue.

Another flawed but entertaining B-noir vehicle for Mitchum from the RKO mill. The line between greatness and mediocrity in these films is so maddeningly thin that it confuses all my aesthetic standards, which are confused to begin with. Mitchum as a kindly surgeon who rescues the mentally unstable woman from her suicide attempt and then gets a concussion during a confrontation with her rich husband (Claude Rains, in fine form) and is swept up with her in a desperate dash for the Mexican border: brilliance or inanity? One feels finally that, as is so often the case, the deciding factor relegating the movie to "minor" status is in the little moral details, and that these details are to such a great extent determined by things like the Production Code that finally one just learns to make the appropriate little adjustments, to "translate" what is on the screen mentally into what it "would" have been if these strictures were not in place. And yet the best examples of the genre find ways to work around these strictures, even taking advantage of them as generative constraints. When the film simply goes along with them in what seems like utter apathetic compliance, it's disheartening.

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