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Inexplicably neglected film noir
on 9 April 2009
This is a short, taut film noir from 20th Century Fox that is inexplicably little known today.
A newly-wed honeymooning bride (Jeanne Craine) boards an Atlantic liner from New York with her husband. He promptly disappears, and the rest of the film, which is based on a John Dickson Carr radio play, concerns her search for him as the crew and especially the ship's doctor (Michael Rennie) struggle to make sense of her predicament even to the extent of questioning her sanity.
The plot is not over-complicated, but its enigmatic quality holds the viewer's attention and does not outstay its welcome at 75 minutes. But the storyline is just one element of a classy package here. This was made in 1953 just when the arrival of TV was starting to take its toll on US cinema audiences. The Fox bosses, wanting to save costs by recycling once-used sets, in this case the seaboard "Titanic" and also "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" which was partly set on the ocean wave, were looking for a suitable B-movie candidate and alighted on Dangerous Crossing.
Despite being filmed entirely in the studio in 19 days for $500,000, the sets look and are expensive, and there's no feeling that it's studio bound thanks to careful use of seascape back projection, some involving shots of the ship that clearly stood in for The Titanic, and also the same fog effects. I would imagine the music was put together too from material from other movies.
The acting is uniformly interesting. The 28-year old Jeanne Craine is excellent, conveying fear, bewilderment but also commendable stubbornness; and she looks great in her ballgown. Michael Rennie, a couple of years on from The Day the Earth Stood Still, is a sympathetic second fiddle, never competing to steal a scene from the female lead as many male co-stars would have done.
Apart from the individual qualities I've tried to convey above, this film has considerable interest for people wanting to appreciate how a studio, by careful use of its human and material resources and by exercising imagination, could put together a first-rate second picture that even 50 years later has lots of impact.
The region 1 disc print quality and sound are good. It comes with trailer-cum-brief introduction, plus full and reasonably interesting audio commentary by a film historian, though it mainly focuses on the fortunes and practices of 20th Century Fox at this time rather than offering insights into this particular film.