Dangerous Crossing (1953)
Dangerous Crossing (1953)

Genre: Film Noir Running Time: 1 hr. 15 min.

Release Date: August 7th, 1953 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Joseph M. Newman Actors: Jeanne Crain, Michael Rennie, Max Showalter, Carl Betz, Mary Anderson, Marjorie Hoshelle, Willis Bouchey, Yvonne Peattie

 


 

J

ohn Bowman (Carl Betz) and his new bride Ruth (Jeanne Crain) meet up at the First Class Baggage station at the New York pier to board a cruise. Their four-week whirlwind romance, culminating in a last-minute marriage just the night before, is still fresh as they merrily embrace, smooch, and daydream about the start of their honeymoon. After embarking, they agree to reunite at the main deck bar in 15 minutes, as John has to stop by the purser to drop off some money. Waving at the crowds as the foghorn blares for departure, Ruth makes the acquaintance of Kay Prentiss (Marjorie Hoshelle), a woman initially worried about the competition of such a pretty young thing, should she have been alone.

“Dangerous Crossing” makes no qualms about exposing its noirish vibe. When Ruth waits in the bar for an eternity, looking up at every man resembling John’s stature, it’s obvious that something is terribly wrong. And when she visits the purser, who has no record of her husband’s visit, and then returns to her cabin, which is locked, the situation grows more troubling. How could someone have just vanished into thin air? How could her belongings disappear so suddenly as well?

“Are you sure you have the right number?” Part of the amusement comes from not knowing too much about the Bowmans, though it’s apparent that Ruth is naive and in over her head. Or is she? The authorities are moderately incredulous, the evidence is minimal, and the premise screams of a conspiracy. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is sane? And why doesn’t the stewardess, Anna Quinn (Mary Anderson), remember Ruth, despite clearly being present when John carried his wife over the threshold of the room?

Fortunately, the unusually tall, sharply-uniformed ship’s surgeon, Dr. Paul Manning (Michael Rennie), complete with markedly chiseled visage, is ready to help. Of additional technical aid is the rapidity with which the Hitchcockian premise initiates, quickly escalating into quite the head-scratcher. So many components raise questions, and so many characters appear suspicious. Could complex scheming, like a mystery on the Orient Express, be brewing here? “We’re in terrible danger. Don’t trust anyone.”

“You don’t believe me!” As with any competent thriller, trust is a hard-won quality. Even the narrator herself could be unreliable; voiceover sequences that reveal Ruth’s inner thoughts are extremely unnecessary, but contribute to the film noir structure. Plus, what the audience sees and hears might not be reality – merely Ruth’s interpretation of reality, considering that she’s the subject of almost every scene … almost. Here, the way that seemingly harmless actions can be twisted around into purposeful deceit is doubly intriguing (like “Gaslight” on a ship). And there’s a curious man with a cane who keeps popping up.

“Imagination can play strange tricks sometimes.” The protagonist’s persecution by a bevy of scrutinizing faces, as if the massive vessel is little more than a couple of compartments in which privacy is an impossible attainment, creates a constant jury; she’s being watched, then judged, then deemed unstable. And her dreamlike bouts of angst and her midnight strolls through darkened corridors of the ship lend to haunted-house sequences (the film is coincidentally set during Halloweentime). If all of the potential plotting and peril is only in her mind, the conclusion would be disappointing at best; yet “Dangerous Crossing” isn’t content with playing exactly that kind of game. The paranoia and suspense are exceptional, the location imparts unique chills, the notion of Ruth’s isolation and aloneness are frightening, and the finale is exhilarating.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10