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The River's Edge

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Milland Gets Murderous in Dwan’s The River’s Edge (1957) | Blu-ray Review

Milland Gets Murderous in Dwan’s The River’s Edge (1957) | Blu-ray Review

In the extensive filmography of director Allan Dwan, there’s perhaps no more glorious period of his filmmaking than his DeLuxe color film noir period of the 1950’s. Following on the heels of the tawdry Slightly Scarlet, which featured red-heads Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming squaring off with John Payne, Dwan inverts the ménage a toi for The River’s Edge utilizing another red-head, Debra Paget, positioned between the amorous interests of Anthony Quinn and Ray Milland in one of his most sinister on-screen personas. Like a cross between Joseph Pevney’s Fox Fire (1955) and the classic The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), a beautiful woman finds herself indebted to her husband while languishing in a rural backwater, this time a New Mexican ranch.

Ben Cameron (Quinn) owns a modest ranch in New Mexico, a scant few miles from the Mexican border. His wife, Margaret (Debra Paget) is fed up with their minimal existence, and despite the fact Ben marrying her saved her from serving a ten year prison sentence after she was abandoned by her last love interest, she decides to take destiny into her own hands. Just as she musters up the spirit to leave, Nardo Denning (Ray Milland), the dubious ex-love interest who left her high and dry., sails into town Nardo’s been looking for her, but he also wants to snag secret passage to Mexico and desires to hire Ben, the area’s best guide, to help him smuggle his large amount of ill-gotten cash. But Nardo’s true nature soon reveals itself and Margaret finds herself in a tough spot, forced to flee as a fugitive but wishing she hadn’t given up on Ben so quickly.

New Mexico provides a sun dappled backdrop for this moody story wherein “hate is just another side of love.” And like the flip sides of this complicated coin, Quinn and Milland show their base natures as a pair of men seemingly obsessed with Paget. Her lust for excitement, however, turns deadly when she’s coincidentally reunited with Milland, a bank robber desiring to scoop her up as he illegally sneaks into Mexico with a briefcase full of cash. His actions, however, become increasingly vicious, even by noir standards, which inadvertently sends her back into the arms of Quinn (although, ironically, she set off to find her own agency instead of depending on the assistance of a man). Its troubling gender role messages notwithstanding, Paget snags a few memorable moments, proving to be a deadly shot with a rifle. Quinn was fresh off his second Best Supporting Actor win in 1956’s Lust for Life, but it’s Ray Milland who steals the show as the brutal and unexpectedly vicious Nardo Denning. As with Slightly Scarlet, love is merely a euphemism for whoever can provide financial stability first and pleasure second, facets which are constantly in flux.

Disc Review:

Twilight Time releases The River’s Edge as one of its standard limited editions (3,000 units) in 2.35:1 with 2.0 DTS-HD Audio. Picture and sound quality are pristine, particularly with DP Harold Lipstein’s vibrant frames of Debra Paget outlined by bruised New Mexico night skies. The disc features an isolated music and effects track as well as an audio commentary from Alain Silver and James Orsini.

Film Rating: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Rating:★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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