MovieChat Forums > Where Danger LivesĀ (1950) Discussion > Good points and bad points of 'Where Dan...

Good points and bad points of 'Where Danger Lives'


I really enjoyed this film, I am a massive fan of film noir, but I wasn't sure how to react to some aspects of this one. I loved the whole idea of Robert Mitchum's concussion,it really added another dimension to the getaway and relationship. I felt the twist was a bit predictable, but entertaining and worked well, and the fact that it wasn't lingered on as the big revelation at the end justified it. I felt it was a little short, but i guess this was standard length for these films at this time, possibly a B-movie? I wondered what this film wouldve been like had it been made today. Some aspects of it wouldnt work, obviously the romance, but in some ways the beauty is in its simplicity. There are some great scenes, good twists and a few surprises, especially when Mitchum is limping to the truck at the end, even though she didnt suffocate him anywhere near long enough to kill him. Overall, really enjoyable - what do the rest of you think?

reply

I watched this movie today and as a film noir I thought it was one of the bad ones. Robert Mitchum is no where near convincing as a doctor. The femme fatale (Faith Demergue) was no where near as riveting or entertaining as say Lizabeth "Too Late For Tears" Scott or Claire "Born To Kill" Trevor. In fact, I did not think she was a good enough actress to really pull it off. Beautiful, yes, but a bit bland.

And the plot seemed to defy all logic. The pacing was incredibly slow. It took seemingly forever just to get to Mexico which wasn't even that far from where they were at. And why was Robert Mitchum limping after all she did was smother him with a pillow after falling to the floor? Yet he was able to catch up with her at the border despite the limping. Also it was too reminiscent of Angel Face. I am not sure which film came first but at least Angel Face was a bit more convincing maybe because Mitchum was just an EMT in that one and not a doctor.

This was the second short, B movie film noir (The other being Robert Ryan in The Woman on the Beach) in a week that I had seen where the younger wife is disenchanted with the older, rich husband and wants to desperately get away from him while mentally they are not well put together. Both had so much potential and both were big let downs.



Perfect timing! You just saved me from a three hour tour of the SS Lurk. -Lorelai Gilmore

reply

Mitchum was limping because, as he had explained earlier during a crucial scene of the film, his concussion might well eventually lead to one-sided paralysis. He actually explains he is now experiencing to this to Domergue in dialogue at the start of the motel-room scene.

My problem with the film was the Hollywood-en ending. It really pees me off to see how all these great, dark, twisted films had to be diluted to conform to Hays Code "morality". At first I thought the plot twists were a bit melodramatic, contrived and trite, but then when the film settled into it's main thrust - a noir chase thriller - I found it compelling, and the more exaggerated elements of amour fou, romanticism and expressionism to be justified.

However, that ending totally kills the film's integrity for the following reasons.

(i) The suggestion that Domergue "got what she deserved for her sins" is extremely odious today given that we now know what we know about mental health. With the resolution as it stands, it basically seems like the film is saying mental illness is a curse that particularly afflicts "immoral" women, and they deserve what they get. If not, the only other explanation for Domergue's behaviour is that she has been a total cold scheming b*tch from day one, which is at odds with a lot of the earlier dialogue and exposition.

(ii) The truly nauseating closing scene of Mitchum's "true love" (O'Sullivan) forgiving all, dismissing his infidelity as merely his having been intoxicated by the "evil" mental illness of Domergue, and thus endorsing the disgusting messages suggested above.

In an ideal world, the ending would have been as follows, either:

(i) The Domergue character is shot by the police, but manages to limp literally just inside the Mexico border, and does her "confession" bit there before popping. This would have at least been ironic. As the coda to this, it would have been nice to see Mitchum's culpability also acknowledged, by Julie rejecting his sentiment of the "white rose" and walking off head held high into the camera. Her genuine human concern satisfied, she could have walked off with her integrity intact and thus been the only character in the film to retain any true dignity. Instead she sickeningly sprints into his room to console and make up with him.

(ii) The most suitably dark climax would have been if, when Mitchum came round in the hotel room and limped out the door, the camera had panned to the window and stayed there, whilst the existing dialogue and the gunshots drifted up from the street below. We would then have heard a van driving away - but not necessarily the one containing Domergue, although of course we would never know because it would fade out to "The End".

In my view an ambiguous ending such as this would have been perfect, as I feel both characters were just as "bad" as each other. God damn Hollywood! At least today's problem though is only that the entire films are a crock of s---. It makes things a lot simpler!

reply

"Mitchum was limping because, as he had explained earlier during a crucial scene of the film, his concussion might well eventually lead to one-sided paralysis. He actually explains he is now experiencing to this to Domergue in dialogue at the start of the motel-room scene."

Okay, I see it now. Thanks for clearing that up. I must have missed that. So maybe that scene doesn't defy all logic.

"My problem with the film was the Hollywood-en ending. It really pees me off to see how all these great, dark, twisted films had to be diluted to conform to Hays Code "morality". At first I thought the plot twists were a bit melodramatic, contrived and trite, but then when the film settled into it's main thrust - a noir chase thriller - I found it compelling, and the more exaggerated elements of amour fou, romanticism and expressionism to be justified."

I am not too quick to blame the Hayes Code so much. It depends on what the director and the writers do with what they were able to work with at the time regarding the strict rules. I mean, yes, it sucked that they had to conform and make the endings good ones while the bad people never got a chance to get away with anything. But if you were smart enough you can make an ending conform to the Hayes Codes in an ingenius way. Ever seen Bette Davis in "The Little Foxes"? Her character is able to walk away and continue with life even though she was a horrible person but I love the way that she did pay for it in the end by losing someone who knew the truth. Also studios had a hand in cutting brilliant movies because of the crappy codes so they weren't always great. Maybe this movie was cut or orginally had a different outcome and the studio didn't back it?

"The suggestion that Domergue "got what she deserved for her sins" is extremely odious today given that we now know what we know about mental health. With the resolution as it stands, it basically seems like the film is saying mental illness is a curse that particularly afflicts "immoral" women, and they deserve what they get. If not, the only other explanation for Domergue's behaviour is that she has been a total cold scheming b*tch from day one, which is at odds with a lot of the earlier dialogue and exposition."

Same thing with the movie I cited above called "Woman on the Beach" Another one about an immoral woman (in this case a wife who cheats on her husband) who has clear signs of mental illness and a sadistic relationship with her husband and Robert Ryan plays one of the men she sleeps with who himself is suffering from delusions and paranoia. The portrayal of both of these characters who clearly have issues we descibe as mental illness today is also pretty odious considering in the end Ryan's character pays when he plays a soldier returning from WW2 with something like PTSD. Now I don't think today anyone could make a film like that one and have a marine coming home from Iraq suffering from the same ailments and portray him as a crazy nut who has to pay for the sins of being mentally ill. I completely understand your point and totally missed it when I watched the film.

"The truly nauseating closing scene of Mitchum's "true love" (O'Sullivan) forgiving all, dismissing his infidelity as merely his having been intoxicated by the "evil" mental illness of Domergue, and thus endorsing the disgusting messages suggested above."

Oh, god, yes, I hated how his ex just forgave him for everything in the end especially when like you said morally Mitchum's character wasn't much better than Domergue's. And I really thought Maureen O'Sullivan deserved a better role than to be a doormat for a jerk. I remember her in "The Thin Man" and thought she was a much better actress than the crappy roles she was given. But once again it was like Mitchum in the film Angel Face: he left a good girl in that one for another "crazy" dame but the good girl in that film had the decency to snub her nose against him in the end as she moved on with someone better. That should have happened here as well. Which would have definately made for a better ending. What's also good about Angel Face is that in the end Mitchum's character as well as the femme fatale pay and conform to the Hayes Code
in a pretty clever and unexpected way. Although i must admit after rewatching Angel Face again recently I really didn't like that one any more than this one but at least that one had a slightly better plot and outcome.



Cecil: Now don't shout at me - I'm in jail.
Jeffrey: Well, that's all right; we don't need you.

reply

1. Domergue "getting what she deserved"----I agree that the concentration on mental illness was unpleasant, but the fumbling efforts to come up with alternate endings show that this is not so easy. If they used the camera panning to the window and staying there while gunshots drifted up from the street below ending, I would never buy or watch the movie, and if I did it would end up on the trash heap quick. If I wanted to provide the ending to a story, I would write the story to begin with. I expect the craftsmen who create a movie to come up with an actual ending.

2. You guys seem to think there was some sort of deep relationship between Mitchum and O'Sullivan. Why? She was several years older than he was. The most he ever said to Margo was that Julie was kind to him. They seem to have dated some but that they were engaged or extremely close eluded me. They seem to have been just friends. Certainly, as they were not married, I don't see that she had any claim on him.

3. The ending does not say that Julie forgives him, if she feels there is anything to forgive exactly. It just seems to imply that what he did did not end their relationship, whatever it was, and it might never have been romantic.

4. My main complaint, though, is how anyone can possibly arrive at moral equivalence between Domergue and Mitchum. There would be no moral equivalence even if Mitchum were a married man, and he is not. Domergue has married a much older man for his money, stolen from him to set up a private nest egg, cheats on him regularly, lies to Mitchum about her maritial status, murders her husband and allows Mitchem to think he did it, flees from the law, and twice attempts to murder Mitchum. If you want to give her a pass on the mental illness excuse, that is your business, but this is a twisted chick. Mitchum may or may not be an accessory after the fact to murder--I don't know the law that well--but he never lied as far as I can tell to either Julie or Margo. His intentions toward Margo were honorable. He certainly was not directly, or indirectly, connected to the murder of Rains. I see you guys as more moralistic than the Hayes Code ever thought of being, but with a morality as twisted as Margo.

reply

I felt that this was a decent movie. It lacked chemistry between Robert Mitchum and Faith Domergue or Margaret Sullivan. Nothing like Mitchum and Jane Russell or Jean Simmons in Angel Face.

reply

when both mitchum and domergue pass out on the side of the road to mexico. domergue has a nightmare of being suffocated. she is not putting on a show. we can understand just what her marriage did to her and why she killed her husband the way she did. i have never before seen a more humanizing portrayal of the revolutionary spouse/femme fatale. in films like double indemnity and the postman always rings twice, classics in their own right, the woman is ALWAYS conniving and dishonest, almost a female incarnation from a fearful male perspective of the capitalist glory of greed. "clash by night" tries to show the picture honestly and without the genre trappings, but it falls into the trappings of a different genre, that of soap opera moralisms. the woman's complaints may be true, but she is eventually brought to yolk by the good man. here we see the woman at a point which is purely psychological. the male is the problem, and the male is a failure at the solution. it is ironic to see the 30 second girlfriend come to mitchum's aid at the end of the film. whereas domergue has spent 80 minutes looking for the antidote to her unrest, mitchum sits comfortably in his hospital bed knowing full and well he'll have no trouble getting that rose to its vase.

reply

I'm stranded here with the flu. Watched this last night and finished it this morning. I've seen a couple of hundred film noirs now and they still entertain me. I don't mind it if the plot is slightly unbelievable, but you have to believe the male character when he jumps into the whirlpool. I did at first, but after the murder, you feel that he can turn back, and I'm not sure it works for me that he doesn't. Usually you have a character that is in love for as long as it takes for him to reach the point of no return. After that you're often left with a couple that has no romance and no warm feelings for each other. These two people have very little of that and I think the movie would have worked better if it was his corrupt love for her that took him towards the border. But then you would have a problem with the ending: when he goes back to his first girl and to the life of life saving doctor who reads bed-side stories to sick children, you need to be able to trust him, and how can that be done? After reading all your discussions, I say that the guy in the extra material documentary was right when he said that this was one of the good noirs. But it is a very late one. I tend to like the 40s ones better than the 50s ones. Anyways, now for "Tension."

reply

i wouldn't exactly call this late period noir, but it certainly isn't early. It's half way between 42 and 58, if those two years mean anything.

reply

In my opinion, this is one of the weakest noirs. It's boring. For a good Mitchum noir, see "out of the past" or "cape fear".

reply

There were romantic ties between the good doctor and Julie, remember when they were in the operating room and she said something about, "if I'm going to marry a doctor I better get used to late nights", or words to that effect.

I don't see any real chemistry between the two main characters and I would have liked to see a little more of the ending, like Julie walking into his room just to let him know that she cares about his well being but is NOT interested in marrying him any longer, after all it shouldn't be too hard for her to find someone else with a lot more sense.

I am kind of a new Mitchum fan, my first movie I saw him in was "Heaven Knows Mr. Allison" and I loved it, since then I've watched several and my favorites so far besides the aforementioned are Cape fear, Night of the Hunter, and His kind of Woman, but while this one is ok, it is not anything close to Mitchum's best work.

One final note, while Margo may have been suffering from mental illness, Cameron said he pitied her, not a lot was known or understood about it in those days so it really isn't fair for us to expect the writers to put that understanding in the scripts they wrote back then.

reply

[deleted]

His name was Jeff, not Jim.

__________________________
Last watched: http://imdb.com/mymovies/list?l=7838626

reply

My biggest problem with the script is that it places Jeff in a very implausible position. The gravest effects of his concussion hadn't even set in before he accepted death as his outcome. Why should he not care to live, whether he ultimately wanted to be with Julie or Margo? He had been strongly committed to the lives of his patients and then suddenly didn't care about life at all? The setup was inconceivable.

reply

What a simply awful movie. Thankfully. this DVD had TENSION on it. That made renting it worthwhile.


"All life's riddles are answered in the movies."

reply

Uh . . . excuse me, but did any of you guys see the film? I can't believe what I'm hearing. The only good point that has been made, and it's a very good one, is the criticism of the cotton candy ending. Yes, the ending was too schmaltzy. Would have been much better, IMHO, to have Donergue at the end, while holding onto the fence after she'd been shot, look up at Mitchum and say, "Why did you do it? Why did you kill my husband?" with a look from those black bedroom eyes that tells the audience that she has indeed had her final vengeance. Then she dies. The camera then shows those standing around look at Mitchum. We then see Mitchum slowly slide down the fence and sit on the ground, his head tilted back, his eyes blankly staring up. THE END.

Everything else, as some have pointed out, is justified. Her 'mental illness' (she was pathological-evil), his going along with her (he was taken at first by her beauty, steamy succulent sexiness, and lies. Being not only drunk but with a brain injury, it is not only possible that he would go along with her, but plausible.

I think some of the women on this site don't know much about men.

No, you guys need to practice a bit of non-pretntiousness and drop the elitism. Keep you minds artistically open and you will not make yourselves look so artistically retarded.

Sorry, don't mean to be harsh, but I'm afraid many of you needed a bit of a spanking.

www.joekeck.com

reply

[deleted]

I'm starting it now. So far, so good...but it's not hard to see what direction the movie will take and how it will end.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

reply

The most interesting part of this film is how the side characters are portrayed. Nobody the couple meet is in a hurry to get in touch with the authorities and tell on them. In fact, most of them see an opportunity to make a buck by blackmailing them.
A nice little comment on American capitalism, I'd say...


On Twitter https://twitter.com/RickAtTheMovies

reply

One thing I find interesting about detective movies and stories of this period is how little time the characters estimate it will take to get from, say, San Francisco to Los Angeles or just about any other destination in the southwest.


Google maps shows the distance from San Francisco International Airport to Nogales as 951 miles on modern freeways and passing through Barstow. The Joshua trees along the road are characteristic of the road through the Mojave Desert to Barstow. Considering that intercity freeways did not exist in California in 1950 and that every state highway passed through the business district of each burg on the route and that these vehicles would need frequent refueling due to at best 15 mpg (except the truck, which had a 55 gallon drum full of gasoline in its bed), I figure an average of 40 mile/hour would be on the high side. Google maps give the modern driving time as 15 hours 15 minutes. At 40 mph, that time is extended to 23 hours 47 minutes. Cars had much lower rear axle ratios than they have today. That 1934 International Harvester C-1 Dr. Cameron and Margo are driving could probably hit 60 mph tops. Gas mileage was lousy by today's standards, necessitating more refueling stops. Finding an open gas station in the desert after midnight would also be a problem. Mitchum's character suffered a concussion in the murder event, but I think with that many hours of driving he would end up looking more than punch drunk anyway.


Many of Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer stories have Archer driving between LA and the Bay Area in a single day or over night. I would be hard pressed to do this in a modern car on either Interstate 101 or I-5.

reply

I agree with with your travel time calculations as another reason I rated this film a 5 of 10. On the subject of autos, I noticed that Mitchum was getting a ride with an ambulance crew. They got in a 1940 or 41 Dodge then went racing down the highway in a totally different ambulance. It looked like a 1937 Ford or 38 Chevy. It is not of absolute importance for the audience to know the exact year of cars but when they look totally different, it stands out.

And Mitchum's character got a concussion from being hit multiple times with an iron fire poker yet Claude Rains died after being pushed down and hitting his head a 2nd time? That would be a bad Perry Mason episode.

And for someone to fall in love quick, there did not seem to be any "darling I love you" dialog nor even any kissing and hugging.

As ladynoir8 said in 2007 and with whom I agree:

I watched this movie today and as a film noir I thought it was one of the bad ones. Robert Mitchum is no where near convincing as a doctor. The femme fatale (Faith Demergue) was no where near as riveting or entertaining as say Lizabeth "Too Late For Tears" Scott or Claire "Born To Kill" Trevor. In fact, I did not think she was a good enough actress to really pull it off. Beautiful, yes, but a bit bland.

And the plot seemed to defy all logic. The pacing was incredibly slow. It took seemingly forever just to get to Mexico which wasn't even that far from where they were at. And why was Robert Mitchum limping after all she did was smother him with a pillow after falling to the floor? Yet he was able to catch up with her at the border despite the limping.

_____

reply