Damn, this is a dark movie.
The 1958 film, Edge of Fury, opens with a man standing on the beach. It seems like it should be a pleasant opening but instead, the entire scene feels threatening. The man, Richard Barrie (Michael Higgins), is a veteran of the Korean War and he’s working on a painting with what appears to be an almost possessed intensity. Thanks to the film’s black-and-white, noir-like cinematography, the beach does not look inviting. Instead, it looks dark and cold. A voice over informs us that Richard once asked to be confined for not only his own good but also the good of society. However, the authorities could not intervene because Richard had yet to commit a crime.
Suddenly, the police arrive. They arrest Richard and take him away, suggesting that Richard has finally proven just how much of a threat he actually is.
The rest of the film is told in flashback. We watch as Richard, who works in a bookstore, comes across a beach house that he quickly rents. It turns out that he wants to stay there with the Hacketts, Florence (Lois Holmes) and her daughters, Eleanor (Jean Allison) and Louisa (Doris Fesette). Somewhat improbably, Richard and Florence are friends, having met in a grocery store. Florence trusts Richard because he’s so polite and nice. Eleanor has a crush on Richard because he’s handsome and brooding. And Louisa just thinks that Richard is kind of a loser.
The Hacketts move into the beach house and Richard sets up an artist’s studio in the shed. He paints a lot of pictures of Louisa, despite the fact that Louisa has a boyfriend and wants nothing to do with him. Though the three women don’t realize it, Richard is growing increasingly unstable and obsessed. He wants the three women to be his new family and when he realizes that he’s not going to get his way, he turns violent….
And certainly, this is not the only film to be made about a mentally disturbed man who becomes obsessed with what he considers to be the perfect family. It’s also not the only film to end with an act of shocking violence and to leave the audience feeling as if they’ve just taken a journey into a waking nightmare. What does set Edge of Fury apart from some other films is that it was made in 1958 and, in many ways, it’s the exact opposite of what we expect a 1958 film to be. This is a dark, dark movie that suggests that the universe is ruled by chaos and that kindness will be rewarded with pain.
Seriously, it’s dark.
That said, it’s definitely a flawed film. You never buy that Florence would trust Richard as much as she does. Michael Higgins is frighteningly intense as Richard but the rest of the cast often seems to simply be going through the motions. That said, it’s definitely a film that sticks with you. This isn’t a story that you just shrug off and forget.
Probably the best thing about the film is the cinematography. This film was an early credit for Conrad L. Hall, who later went on to become one of the great cinematographers. He fills the film with ominous shadows and hints of the madness to come. As filmed by Hall. the beach looks like some alien landscape, as twisted as the inside of Richard’s mind.
Edge of Fury took me by surprise. It’s nowhere close to being perfect but it’s worth tracking down on YouTube.