EDGE OF DOOM (1950) With Farley Granger, Dana Andrews, Paul Stewart, Robert Keith, Joan Evans, Harold Vermilyea.
This is probably one of the most relentlessly grim film noir's I have ever seen with the possible exception of something like Billy Wilders ACE IN THE HOLE that would follow a year later. However, unlike Ace in the Hole, Edge of Doom has no darkly comic wit and banter to lighten the mood. Edge of Doom is relentless and whole heartedly committed to its dark theme.
The film concerns Granger as a young man taking care of his sick mother, working as a delivery man for a stingy florist and struggling to make time for a girlfriend (Joan Evans) who demands more of his time. Granger is trying to earn money to get his mother to a warmer climate as her doctor suggests. But from the very beginning we know this isn't an option. In fact, one of the most brilliant things about this film is how we are made to know and feel Grangers hopelessness because the situations he finds himself in are situations we've all been in. Helpless to help a sick or dying loved one, helpless to get a raise, feeling abandoned by people who seemingly don't care, feeling abandoned by God and the church. Granger enters this world of helplessness and hopelessness and spirals out of control. His boss puts off talk of raises, much to Grangers dismay. His kindly landlady tries to convince Granger to call his mothers priest, but Granger has nothing but vitriol for the church who, as he sees it, has abandoned his family more than once.
Dana Andrews plays a young, liberal, streetwise and engaging priest who is about to take over the parish from the older, tired, burned out, hard-line priest played by Harold Vermilyea.
When Grangers mother dies, Granger focuses on making sure his mother has a big, expensive funeral. Of course this is an impossibility given his economic situation. However, he see's this as his chance for redemption while not really recognizing it consciously. Outwardly he blames others. The church, his boss, society. His cynical con man neighbor Paul Stewart feeds Grangers anger by telling him that he has to "take" what he wants and what others seemingly "owe" him. A despondent Granger goes to Vermilyea to demand an expensive funeral for his mother. The priest tells him it's impossible but Granger is angrily adamant. Exasperated and frustrated, the priest demands Granger leave, but Granger is now past the point of no return. And even before Granger picks up the heavy bronze cross from the Priests desk, held tightly in his trembling hand, we know the outcome is a fait accompli.
From there on, Granger struggles to both elude police while still trying to get the expensive funeral for his mother. He has a confrontation with his boss which ends up in his being fired. Then he confronts the funeral director. This scene is also rather ironic as he comes close to achieving his goal, but because of losing his job, he is turned down for credit to get exactly what he wanted and as a result, has another angry outburst with the funeral director.
Then, as his paranoia, depression, lack of sleep, anger and frustration take their toll, he is fingered as a suspect in a robbery which his con man neighbor has committed. In yet another ironic twist, this development results in his being set free and his neighbor charged with the murder of the priest. Meanwhile, Andrews and a cynical, unsympathetic police inspector (Robert Keith) struggle to discover the truth.
Andrews narrates the film. He's telling the story to another young priest as equal parts cautionary tale and as an example of how sometimes, saving a soul can be an ugly business. The film is intense and dark. Granger is perfectly cast as the ineffectual man who struggles in vain and just sinks deeper and deeper. His hope and sanity are almost completely gone. Watching this movie, one almost feels as sick for Granger as Granger feels himself. Since the films narrative sets it up so that we pretty much know what will happen, it makes us all the more sympathetic with Grangers plight and all the more sick to our stomachs when we see his very wrong choices and see how close one can come to making those choices. It's also fascinating to see Granger deteriorate from hunger, exhaustion, depression and guilt. The films visuals reflect it's bleakness. All night time shots. There is one haunting scene where Granger walks down a brick hallway in the basement of the funeral parlor, coming closer and closer to a half opened door, behind which is an open casket.
The mood of the film is infectious and is a good example of why 1950 was one of the best years for Film Noir. Highly recommended.