DANGEROUS CROSSING (Fox, 1953) D: Joseph M. Newman, w/ Jeanne Crain, Michael Rennie. Rating: NN; DVD package: NNN
The box says “fox film noir,” but it’s noir in name only. Hard-bitten dialogue, urban angst and a pervasive sense of doom are nowhere to be found. Instead, the film belongs to an older thriller tradition, the impossible crime, pioneered by Edgar Allan Poe in The Murders In The Rue Morgue (1841) and still being reworked as late as 2005 in the Jodie Foster vehicle Flightplan.
In fact, Dangerous Crossing and Flightplan share the identical premise: somebody disappears from a closed environment, and nobody will admit the missing person was there in the first place. I recall reading this plot in a Victorian short story in public school; historian Aubrey Solomon, in his commentary, traces it to an urban legend involving the 1900 Paris Exposition.
Whatever the story’s origins, it’s enough to drive a brand-new bride to hysteria, despite the soothing ministrations of the ship’s doctor.
As the bride, Jeanne Crain shrieks, shivers and sighs in approved fashion, and Michael Rennie, the doctor, provides a reassuring and remarkably handsome presence. Together, they’re good company for a brisk 76-minute B movie.
Veteran director Joseph Newman makes his B look like an A-minus through smart use of extras and some elegant standing sets left over from Fox’s Titanic. In his commentary, Solomon explains how Newman did it, then segues into the studio’s response to the threat of television, then the career of production head Darryl Zanuck. It’s engaging material despite Solomon’s wooden delivery.
Dangerous Crossing was adapted from a radio play by John Dickson Carr. In his day, Carr was the master of the locked-room mystery, and as Carter Dickson he specialized in impossible crimes laced with comedy. He’s well worth looking up if you like classic mysteries.
EXTRAS Historian commentary, making-of doc, isolated score track. Full frame, b&w. English, French, Spanish subtitles.