The River’s Edge (1957)

ALLAN DWAN

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 1957. . Screenplay by , , based on the story The Highest Mountain by Harold Jacob Smith. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by James Leicester.

Fiery redheaded married cattle rancher to get out of her personal legal troubles but, now established in the grimy house that is on his dusty property, finds herself regretting the decision to be with a man she hardly knows.

Just as she makes plans to leave, however, a nattily dressed stranger () drives up in a pink Cadillac, offering Quinn money to escort him from their border town across to Mexico and back. He says it’s because he wants to avoid declaring his acquisitions at customs, but what Quinn doesn’t know is that Milland is actually the con man who got Paget thrown in jail in the first place.

After Milland has a run-in with the law that leaves a man murdered, Quinn is forced to be his guide across the vast terrain with wife in tow but, as they move towards their destination, near-death circumstances inspire rotating loyalties.

This sharp-edged thriller is another example of effective noir storytelling combined with the imaginative vistas of westerns, a genre mashup that seems to work particularly well as the dark personalities contrast beautifully with the bright backgrounds.

Paget successfully moves away from silly ingenue roles to playing an effective and credible tough broad, and enjoys some sexy chemistry with Quinn, while Milland, who played no end of sniveling villain roles in the fifties, has a good time once again as the heavy. Some pretty gritty violence adds a touch of brutality to what is otherwise an elegant exercise in crime drama.

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