Dangerous Crossing (1953)

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Ruth Stanton (Jeanne Crain) is now Ruth Bowman — married less than a day ago and boarding a ship for her honeymoon. Her new husband John (Carl Betz) has made all of the arrangements, and the young couple is excited to be heading out to sea for a romantic voyage.

When Ruth decides she wants to stay on deck for departure to wave at the onlookers, John tells her to meet him in one of the ship’s several bars once the voyage is underway. Ruth does just that… but John never shows up. Her new Mr. has gone missing!

It’s the start of a terrible journey for Ruth, as the ship’s staff claim to have no record of her husband — only her, under her maiden name, booked for a solo cabin. Can Ruth, with the help of Dr. Manning (Michael Rennie), find her husband and uncover the truth?

Dangerous Crossing was directed by Joseph M. Newman. The screenplay was written by Leo Townsend from a play by John Dickson Carr.

If the synopsis of this film as described above sounded at all familiar to you, that’s probably because the “disappeared into thin air” tale has been told about a million times over. Though based on Carr’s 1943 play, the film bears resemblance to such titles as Midnight Warning (1932), So Long at the Fair (1950), and The Lady Vanishes (1938).

Luckily, a familiar premise doesn’t always  make for a bad watch. I found Dangerous Crossing to be an enjoyable mystery/psychological thriller.

Much of the film’s appeal comes from a successfully-built atmosphere of eeriness. The ship setting seems not claustrophobic but expansive throughout much of the film, especially in the early scenes of Ruth’s search for John. While a claustrophobic setting can add tension to a film, this ship does so as well, seeming to be an absolute maze of staterooms, decks, dining halls, bars, and hallways.

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Narration of some of Ruth’s thoughts adds intrigue to the film as she seems to blame herself for whatever trouble John has found himself in. There’s also the sound of a foghorn blaring, and plenty of fog to go along with it, adding to the film’s visual and atmospheric appeal as Ruth walks the decks.

Along with that well-built atmosphere, Dangerous Crossing is made gripping by the performance of Jeanne Crain. The film is anchored on Crain’s character and her psychology. To the ship’s staff, she seems delusional, with no evidence of her supposed husband to be found. Crain’s performance is somewhat frantic but she is constantly self-assured in her insistence that Mr. Bowman is real, is hidden somewhere on the ship, and must be found.

The resolution to the mystery brings some surprise, even though I’ve watched so many similar stories play out. Between the ending, Crain’s performance, and the eerie mood of the film on the whole, I really enjoyed watching Dangerous Crossing.

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2 thoughts on “Dangerous Crossing (1953)

  1. This is part of a Fox noir series on DVD, and I’ve often thought of adding it to my collection, but I’ve wondered whether it really could be considered a noir film. What do you think?

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    • I would say it’s a noir-ish mystery. The cinematography has some very moody moments which I think have led many people to slap on the “noir” label. Definitely worth watching, though!

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