Edge of Doom


1h 39m 1950

Brief Synopsis

A priest sets out to catch the man who killed one of his colleagues.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Adaptation
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 30, 1950
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 2 Aug 1950
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Edge of Doom by Leo Brady (New York, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,951ft (11 reels)

Synopsis

Hoping to persuade a disillusioned parishioner to reconsider his decision to leave the St. Stephens parish, Father Roth tells the man the inspirational story of Martin Lynn, a boy who found his faith in the church only after rejecting it and turning to crime: Martin, a flower-shop delivery boy, begs his boss, Mr. Swanson, for a raise to care for his ailing mother, but is refused. At home, Martin and his mother discuss her devotion to the church, which Martin has disdained ever since Father Kirkman refused to perform a mass at the funeral of Martin's father, who committed suicide. Martin has dinner with his sweetheart, Julie, whom he plans to marry as soon as he can save enough money. When he goes home that night, his mother has passed away, and, grief-stricken, he heads to the church to insist that Father Kirkman repay his mother for her devotion by providing her with a proper funeral. When Kirkman, whose parish is poor, cannot help him, Martin erupts in a rage and strikes Kirkman in the head with a crucifix he takes from the priest's desk. Kirkman dies instantly, and Martin wipes his fingerprints from the crucifix and flees in a panic. On the street, he happens upon a holdup at a movie theater, where he is arrested by police and held for questioning because he appears suspicious. Martin uses his mother's death as an alibi for his behavior, but when he takes the detectives to his apartment to prove his story, he is shocked to discover that his mother's body has been removed. Martin goes to his neighbor, gangster Craig, looking for answers, unaware that Craig is the one who robbed the theater. At the police station, Roth, who is assisting the police with a case of juvenile delinquency, overhears the charges against Martin, and intervenes on the accused's behalf. After winning the boy's temporary release, Roth takes him to the rectory and tries to help him. Martin rejects Roth's help, however, and tells him that be believes in nothing. The following day, Craig, who once threatened Kirkman, is arrested and booked on suspicion of murdering the priest. Having failed in his initial attempt to bury his mother, Martin demands that Swanson supply him with a room full of flowers for the funeral. Although Martin is willing to pay for the flowers by working overtime, Swanson refuses the request and fires the boy when he becomes angry. While Martin then tries in vain to bargain with the funeral home, Roth finds an impression of Martin's address that Kirkman wrote on his notepad just before the boy killed him. After Martin informs Julie that he cannot see her anymore for her own good, Roth visits him and begs him to find forgiveness in his heart for Kirkman. Later, Mrs. Pearson, who saw a man leaving the church at the time of murder, is brought to the police station to pick out the man from a lineup of suspects. Although Martin is among those in the lineup, the befuddled Mrs. Pearson indicates that Craig was the man she saw. Craig protests his innocence and confesses to the theater robbery, but his pleas go unheard. Tormented by his guilty conscience, Martin seeks solace at Murray's funeral home, where he breaks down in tears and confesses his crime to Roth. Roth concludes his story by explaining to his visitor that the triumph of Martin's conscience over his fear is what gave Roth an understanding of faith.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Adaptation
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 30, 1950
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 2 Aug 1950
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Edge of Doom by Leo Brady (New York, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,951ft (11 reels)

Articles

Edge of Doom


For a film relatively forgotten today, Edge of Doom (1950) certainly has an impressive set of credentials. The film was directed by Mark Robson who, before he moved on to blockbuster hits such as Peyton Place (1957) and Valley of the Dolls (1967), was an editor and later a director of some of the eerie, stylish films in Val Lewton's acclaimed horror unit at RKO. The script was written by Philip Yordan, who in his long career worked with Nicholas Ray, Anthony Mann, William Wyler and other noted directors in a range of genres. Uncredited work on the screenplay was done by Academy Award winners Charles Brackett (Sunset Blvd., 1950) and Ben Hecht (Notorious, 1946). The evocative cinematography was the work of Harry Stradling Sr., one of the top craftsmen in his field. He is best known for a number of lavish, big-budget musicals (Guys and Dolls [1955], Gypsy [1962]) but also as the man who created the distinctive look of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Johnny Guitar (1954).

So why has Edge of Doom been so overlooked, and why was it such a big failure in its day? Perhaps the answer can be found in one of those priceless anecdotes about the verbally colorful Samuel Goldwyn, who produced the movie. According to A. Scott Berg in his biography of Goldwyn, the producer "was chewing out his staff one day for not creating a successful advertising campaign for the film: 'I don't know what's the matter with you. This is a simple story about a boy who wants a fine funeral for his mother, so he kills a priest.' Upon hearing this own words, he suddenly grasped the fundamental problem with the movie. With his next breath he said, 'Let's not spend another dime.'

The story is certainly bleak enough, even for a film noir. Reportedly, Goldwyn's wife Frances purchased Leo Brady's book for the independent studio's young contract actor, Farley Granger, in yet another effort to transform him into a major star. Granger was cast as a poor young man who bludgeons to death the priest who refuses to give his mother a decent burial. In the tradition of tough but compassionate men of the cloth, such as those often played by Spencer Tracy or Pat O'Brien, Dana Andrews plays Father Thomas Roth, who manipulates Granger's character into confessing his crime. Despite what it called "a grim, relentless story, considerably offbeat," Variety noted that "It is played to the hilt by a good cast and directed with impact."

In his autobiography, Granger wrote that his initial excitement about the project soon turned sour as it became apparent in his eyes that the filmmakers had no idea how to handle the material. At sneak previews, the audience responded as negatively as the star. In an effort to salvage Edge of Doom, Robson went into a lengthy re-editing process, and Goldwyn brought in Ben Hecht and Charles Brackett to write framing scenes that would change the focus from the murderous young man to the good priest. In the opinion of many, this not only did little to save the picture but softened the original book's critique of organized religion and examination of the negative effects of poverty. Granger recalled that "Goldwyn expected me to go on a nationwide PR tour for the film. I'll never understand why he flogged that dead horse for as long as he did, but I wanted nothing more to do with it. I refused to do any more promotional appearances. After yet another tirade on what an ingrate I was, back on suspension I went...and back to Europe to join my friends, who were now in Rome."

Granger fared much better in his next project on loan out to Warner Brothers - Strangers on a Train (1951) for Alfred Hitchcock. Ironically, the master of suspense followed that picture with I Confess (1953), a story about a young priest falsely accused of murder who is unable to reveal the true criminal because of the sanctity of the confessional. It also bombed at the box office.

Director: Mark Robson
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Philip Yordan, Charles Brackett and Ben Hecht (both uncredited), from the novel by Leo Brady
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Editing: Daniel Mandell
Art Direction: Richard Day
Original Music: Hugo Friedhofer
Cast: Dana Andrews (Father Thomas Roth), Farley Granger (Martin Lynn), Joan Evans (Rita Conroy), Robert Keith (Det. Mandel), Mala Powers (Julie) BW-99m.

by Rob Nixon
Edge Of Doom

Edge of Doom

For a film relatively forgotten today, Edge of Doom (1950) certainly has an impressive set of credentials. The film was directed by Mark Robson who, before he moved on to blockbuster hits such as Peyton Place (1957) and Valley of the Dolls (1967), was an editor and later a director of some of the eerie, stylish films in Val Lewton's acclaimed horror unit at RKO. The script was written by Philip Yordan, who in his long career worked with Nicholas Ray, Anthony Mann, William Wyler and other noted directors in a range of genres. Uncredited work on the screenplay was done by Academy Award winners Charles Brackett (Sunset Blvd., 1950) and Ben Hecht (Notorious, 1946). The evocative cinematography was the work of Harry Stradling Sr., one of the top craftsmen in his field. He is best known for a number of lavish, big-budget musicals (Guys and Dolls [1955], Gypsy [1962]) but also as the man who created the distinctive look of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Johnny Guitar (1954). So why has Edge of Doom been so overlooked, and why was it such a big failure in its day? Perhaps the answer can be found in one of those priceless anecdotes about the verbally colorful Samuel Goldwyn, who produced the movie. According to A. Scott Berg in his biography of Goldwyn, the producer "was chewing out his staff one day for not creating a successful advertising campaign for the film: 'I don't know what's the matter with you. This is a simple story about a boy who wants a fine funeral for his mother, so he kills a priest.' Upon hearing this own words, he suddenly grasped the fundamental problem with the movie. With his next breath he said, 'Let's not spend another dime.' The story is certainly bleak enough, even for a film noir. Reportedly, Goldwyn's wife Frances purchased Leo Brady's book for the independent studio's young contract actor, Farley Granger, in yet another effort to transform him into a major star. Granger was cast as a poor young man who bludgeons to death the priest who refuses to give his mother a decent burial. In the tradition of tough but compassionate men of the cloth, such as those often played by Spencer Tracy or Pat O'Brien, Dana Andrews plays Father Thomas Roth, who manipulates Granger's character into confessing his crime. Despite what it called "a grim, relentless story, considerably offbeat," Variety noted that "It is played to the hilt by a good cast and directed with impact." In his autobiography, Granger wrote that his initial excitement about the project soon turned sour as it became apparent in his eyes that the filmmakers had no idea how to handle the material. At sneak previews, the audience responded as negatively as the star. In an effort to salvage Edge of Doom, Robson went into a lengthy re-editing process, and Goldwyn brought in Ben Hecht and Charles Brackett to write framing scenes that would change the focus from the murderous young man to the good priest. In the opinion of many, this not only did little to save the picture but softened the original book's critique of organized religion and examination of the negative effects of poverty. Granger recalled that "Goldwyn expected me to go on a nationwide PR tour for the film. I'll never understand why he flogged that dead horse for as long as he did, but I wanted nothing more to do with it. I refused to do any more promotional appearances. After yet another tirade on what an ingrate I was, back on suspension I went...and back to Europe to join my friends, who were now in Rome." Granger fared much better in his next project on loan out to Warner Brothers - Strangers on a Train (1951) for Alfred Hitchcock. Ironically, the master of suspense followed that picture with I Confess (1953), a story about a young priest falsely accused of murder who is unable to reveal the true criminal because of the sanctity of the confessional. It also bombed at the box office. Director: Mark Robson Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Screenplay: Philip Yordan, Charles Brackett and Ben Hecht (both uncredited), from the novel by Leo Brady Cinematography: Harry Stradling Editing: Daniel Mandell Art Direction: Richard Day Original Music: Hugo Friedhofer Cast: Dana Andrews (Father Thomas Roth), Farley Granger (Martin Lynn), Joan Evans (Rita Conroy), Robert Keith (Det. Mandel), Mala Powers (Julie) BW-99m. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Many scenes in this film were shot on location in various parts of Los Angeles, including the downtown neighborhood known as Skid Row. The film was originally released on August 2, 1950, but, according to an October 1950 New York Times article, poor reviews and box office returns prompted producer Samuel Goldwyn to poll the audience at New York's Astor Theater and, as a result of their comments, pull the picture during the fourth week of its run in order to add footage. An August 1950 Variety article stated that for the new material, Goldwyn replaced the original writer, Philip Yordan, and director, Mark Robson, with director Charles Vidor and writer Ben Hecht, who created and shot a new prologue, epilogue and commentary in an attempt to "lighten the depressing atmosphere" of the film. The story's focus subsequently shifted from the plight of Farley Granger's character to the efforts of Dana Andrews' young priest to save the boy's faith. An October 1950 Variety article reported that grosses went up after the release of the new version, which had its premiere in New Orleans on September 27, 1950.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer August 3, 1950

Wide Release in United States September 27, 1950

Completed shooting additional sequences August 24, 1950.

Completed shooting January 10, 1950.

Ben Hecht enlarged Dana Andrew's role, and wrote the film's prologue and epilogue.

Released in United States Summer August 3, 1950

Wide Release in United States September 27, 1950