Where Danger Lives (1950)

Where Danger Lives (1950) is a disturbed wife psycho murder couple on the run film noir with Robert Mitchum as the hell in love with Faith Domergue, one deranged half of a supremely dysfucntional marriage — the other half being Claude Rains.

A severe combinations of noir elements give the story of Where Danger Lives (1950) a bizarre enough edge to classify it as several types of crazy, largely derived from the mad and maddening behaviour of the suicide patient played by Faith Domergue.

The relationship with her husband which is abusive and very much a front for her to get access to money and for him (the husband played by Claude Rains) to have ownership of a young woman , and as such a marriage doomed to fail.

There is even more than failure embedded in this marriage, which erupts into madness, sickness and violence at the drop of a hat — and it is most noirish in the extreme for the character of Robert Mitchum — to most intents and purposes a noir normie — a hapless man — a heel of the first water drawn into this insane social cul de sac where wealth — as it is more often than not shown in film noir — to be a source of moral corruption and a nesting home of madness and vice. 

The rich families in film noir are generally seen as hosts of madness and vice. There are always secrets within mansions in film noir. The grand mansion of Where Danger Lives (1950) is no exception, and as there such a focus on the husband and wife in Where Danger Lives (1950) it is at times difficult to tell who is the victim and who is the villain.

Claude Rains does warn Robert Mitchum's character in many ways about the dangerous and unstable woman he has fallen for. She on the other hands suggests some of the time that it is her husband driving her mad, while he at other times indicates that she is the mad one and that he has saved her and protects her. He also more forcefully suggests that he is also protecting her from herself and keeping society as a whole safe from her. 

Robert Mitchum in Where Danger Lives (1950)

The portrayal of ultra-rich members of society as corrupt and grappling with mental problems or private vices in 1940s film noir reflects a combination of cultural, social, and historical factors that influenced the genre during that era. 

The 1940s marked the aftermath of the Great Depression and the wartime years of World War II. These periods led to a heightened awareness of social and economic disparities, as well as a skepticism toward those who profited during times of crisis. Film noir often reflected a postwar disillusionment and a sense that the wealthy elite might have engaged in opportunistic or unethical behavior.

Film noir emerged as a genre that often critiqued societal norms and institutions. The portrayal of wealthy individuals as corrupt and morally compromised was part of the genre's broader exploration of the darker aspects of human nature and society.

Film noir drew inspiration from hardboiled detective fiction, which frequently depicted the rich and powerful as having hidden, criminal lives. This literary influence contributed to the characterization of the wealthy elite as morally ambiguous figures.

The postwar period saw challenges to traditional authority structures and societal norms. Film noir reflected a growing skepticism toward institutions, including the wealthy class. The genre often portrayed characters who questioned authority and delved into the underbelly of society.

Film noir embraced existential themes and moral ambiguity. Characters, including the wealthy elite, were often portrayed as morally conflicted, struggling with their own actions and choices. This existential angst added complexity to the characters and the narratives.

Film noir sometimes tapped into societal fears and anxieties about the "other" — those who were perceived as different or outside the norm. The wealthy elite, with their opulent lifestyles, were sometimes depicted as a source of suspicion and fear.

Psychological and Freudian influences were prevalent in film noir. Characters' motivations, desires, and conflicts often had psychological dimensions. The portrayal of the wealthy as having mental problems or engaging in private vices could be seen as an exploration of the darker corners of the human psyche.

Film noir was influenced by German Expressionism, which often portrayed distorted and nightmarish visions of society. This visual style, with its use of shadows and stark contrasts, contributed to the atmospheric portrayal of the ultra-rich as corrupt and morally compromised.

In summary, the portrayal of the ultra-rich as corrupt and dealing with mental problems or private vices in 1940s film noir can be understood within the broader context of societal changes, cultural influences, and the genre's inclination to explore the darker facets of human behavior and societal structures. It served as a reflection and critique of the times in which these films were produced.

The crazy infatuation which sets off this chain of lunatic events is normal enough, a perfectly normal day in the world of noir. San Franciscan doctor Jeff Cameron (Robert Mitchum) has been working long hours and just when he thought that his huge shift has come to an end, he is called back to the emergency room to revive a beautiful woman (Faith Domergue) who has attempted suicide. 

The circumstances of this woman's state are ambiguous as the man who brought her in has vanished without a trace.

In the searing heat of the desert, where the sun conspires with the sand to burn the very soul, Jack Malone and Veronica Lane raced towards the elusive sanctuary of Mexico. A fugitive couple, shadows cast by crimes neither could fully outrun. Jack, a two-bit grifter with a past soaked in bourbon and betrayal; Veronica, a dame with a heart as cold as the steel of a .45.

As the wheels tore through the arid landscape, the echoes of their stormy romance reverberated within the car's chrome-lined confines. Secrets whispered, smoke curled, and a tense symphony of jazz crackled from the radio, punctuating the air with dissonant notes that mirrored the discord between them.

The horizon shimmered with mirages of redemption, but the relentless pursuit of both the law and a criminal syndicate threatened to shatter their dreams like glass hitting a concrete floor. In the suffocating confines of the car, passion ignited like the fuse on a stick of dynamite, moments of fiery intimacy interlaced with bitter accusations and smoky silences.

The desert night became their accomplice and nemesis, concealing their sins and exposing their vulnerabilities. In the rearview mirror, flashing red and blue lights mirrored the tempest inside their souls. The promise of freedom in Mexico loomed on the horizon, but with each mile, the ghosts of their pasts clawed at the edges of their stolen refuge, threatening to engulf them in the noir abyss from which escape was uncertain, and redemption, a distant mirage.

Robert Mitchum, the iconic American actor, appeared in numerous films throughout his illustrious career. He was active in Hollywood from the 1940s until his passing in 1997. While the exact count can vary depending on what is considered a "film" (including feature films, TV movies, etc.), it's generally accepted that Robert Mitchum starred in over 100 films during his prolific career. His filmography includes a wide range of genres, from film noir classics like "Out of the Past" to memorable roles in movies such as "The Night of the Hunter," "Cape Fear," and "The Winds of War."

There is no historical evidence or widely documented instances of American towns in the 1950s or earlier hosting annual mandatory beard-wearing festivals for citizens. While facial hair styles have varied throughout history, and some communities may have had local traditions or events celebrating facial hair, the concept of mandatory beard-wearing festivals is not a recognized or established part of American history.

The next day however a  message invites Cameron to the woman’s magnificent estate where the poor sap is drawn into the adventure that will take him away from everything that is safe and normal in the world.

In fact despite being already being romantically involved with a nurse he gives in to the mystery woman's sensuality. We find out that the woman, Margo is already married to a man older than herself, played by Claude Raines.

Before anyone knows it the two are on the run from the police and hoping to make a getaway to Mexico. This is the great film noir world of the middle class and moral suburban path of career and romantic normalcy being subverted to sensuality, lust and by extension and action — crime.

The two in fact become enemies of society, thus fulfilling that strongest of 1940s film noir tropes, the regular and moral male being pulled off track into adventuresome, fantastic and dangerous roles running counter to everything the proper world holds dear.

Much of this is contained in the painful fact that for most of the film Mitchum is playing a man suffering from symptoms of concussion, which include headaches, dizziness, faintness and a creeping paralysis that adds to the fear and the fatality of the situation.

In addition he is conflicted by Margo's behaviour which ios somewhat erratic, and she also keeps information from him, proving a problematic lover and a difficult companion on the road. Still however he manages to get her to Mexico through a series of dangerous and strange encounters.

A more solid film noir you may be unlikely to find. Innocent well meaning tough guy falls in love with a psychologically unfit woman and subsequent relationship that destroys 

Geoff does appear to be a moral soul, afflicted with love, which is something film noir rarely trades in. Neither the husband nor the wife of the deadly marriage which is the focus of this movie earnestly believe that a poor sap could actually fall for another person due to love, when there is money to content with too. Yet money is still needed even if the love is string and real, a message true to noir and common top the style.

Jeff Cameron: Look, I want you, not the money.

Margo: Money can help. It'd be awfully tough for a young doctor, Jeff.

Jeff Cameron: I've aged considerably in the last five minutes.

Margo: Poverty's sordid. If you were broke...

Jeff Cameron: I will be, I promise you. 

As it fills itself out, Where Danger Lives (1950) moves through a variety of noir modes, each one as standard as it is crazy. 

Where Danger Lives (1950) is for a large part a couple on the run movie while it also serves many of the paranoid woman film noir tropes, with elements of lousy husband in Claude Rains character. Not just a nasty but a weird sequence of events, art imitating life in its fateful absurdity, or absurd fatality.

It would not be classic film noir however if it were not replete with emotional excess, fateful strangeness — for which the incident with the small town an the mandatory kookie beard-wearing celebrations serves one of the stranger noir set-up in the entirety of the canon — and bad decision making within the forlorn settings of a doomed love.

For most of this, if not all of it, Faith Domergue as the criminally ill wife of Claude Rains, takes much of the blame.

Police Chief: Wacky dame like that's liable to do anything.

As Where Danger Lives (1950) opens it is entertaining to see the solidity of a male like Mitchum who is good at his job, popular around his workplace and great with children. Interestingly, like Angel Face from 1953, Where Danger Lives (1950) does feature an opening with ambulances racing back and fore, the two in fact seem most visually similar in this aspect.

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader wrote:

"Director John Farrow nicely hits the nightmarish, hallucinatory qualities in this standard film noir plot: Mitchum spends the last half of the film barreling down the dirt roads of southern California with a brain concussion, passing out periodically and waking up surrounded by some of the bleakest scenery America has to offer."

Film review, Chicago Reader, 1996-2008

Let us just acknowledge that this film has a non-noir ending, not conclusion, but it has an ending tagged on that is definitely non-noir. 

The taglines for Where Danger Lives (1950) are as usual for the medium expressive of something dangerous and exciting, although not in the least representative of the film's

She's tempting to look at - dangerous to know!


MITCHUM in action!

She's tempting in a penthouse and dangerous in a bordertown dive!

An expressive poster or lobby car must really only suggest a few ideas which combine with the imagery, generally and immediately suggestive of sex and violence.

It is implied that were Cameron his usual healthy self, things would be different. It is not even in fact clear what his part — if any — in the murder is. 

However after being beaten on the head with a fireplace poker he cannot think straight, and has to trust Margo, a woman of typical late 1940s mental deficiencies, a kind of paranoid woman bundle, with the evils of sex and greed mixed in, and stirred up with vulnerable feelings of love which do appear most real.

There does appear from the blue of this blackness a moment of unexpected lucidity from Cameron at the film’s climax when everything becomes unpleasantly clear but by then it is too late 

Faith Domergue like any good and heavily invested noir actress of the era puts everything she has into the role of a hysterical and paranoia woman, the de rigeur and default state of the relentless female presence in gold age period film noir.

Robert Mitchum and Faith Domergue in Where Danger Lives (1950)

Where Danger Lives (1950)

Directed by John Farrow

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Jul 8, 1950 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 84 min.  |  


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