Friday 4 December 2020

Movie Review: Dangerous Mission (1954)

A stiff crime drama, Dangerous Mission features a decent cast and scenic locations but also a stolid script and inane action.

After witnessing a gangland hit Louise Graham (Piper Laurie) flees to Montana's Glacier National Park and a job as a hotel gift shop clerk. The bad guys uncover her new location and dispatch a hit-man. Ex-Marine Matt Hallett (Victor Mature) arrives at the park and checks into the hotel, where his handgun attracts the attention of Chief Ranger Joe Parker (William Bendix). 

Matt locates Louise but finds tourist Paul Adams (Vincent Price) already trying to win her attention. To mingle with the locals Matt befriends Louise's colleague Mary (Betta St. John), whose father Katoonai (Steve Darrell) is a fugitive wanted for murder. Louise has to sort out friend from foe and her life is soon in danger.

An RKO production filmed in Technicolor and 3D, Dangerous Mission is a mismatch of technology, locations, tone and budget. Producer Irwin Allen cuts his teeth on some non-sequitur disaster scenes, somehow throwing in a rock avalanche, a crackling electric cable, a forest fire and a glacier hazard course into what started as a Hitchcockian-noir combo. The natural catastrophes don't add relevance to the plot but allow director Louis King to burn a few of the already sparse 75 minutes of running time. 

The core plot is an unconvincing hodgepodge of woman-in-danger, a bland romantic triangle, attempted villainy, and a stupifyingly extraneous indigenous-fugitive-on-the-run sub-plot. The script by Charles Bennett, W. R. Burnett and Horace McCoy works overtime to trip itself up, and runs out of tricks as soon as the predictable switch between the presumed assassin and protector characters plays out with knowing inelegance.

The principal cast members are all better than this material, but are drawn down to the level of arthritic dialogue, plastic acting and ridiculous character decisions. And so after various tepid encounters a cop drags his star witness (complete in heels and a dressy outfit) into a dangerous pursuit across rugged terrain and exposes her to gunfire and deadly ice crevices. And of course they kiss triumphantly despite an accumulation of dead bodies strewn across the landscape.

The Glacier National Park scenery is appealing and King does a reasonable job combining on-location with studio shots, but Dangerous Mission remains dangerously bad.

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