Ruth Bowman (Jeanne Crain) and her husband John (Carl Betz) are newlyweds. They met and married in a whirlwind courtship in New York City. They board a ship for a honeymoon cruise. Their cabin is B-16. John carries his new bride over the threshold. Inside is stewardess Anna Quinn (Mary Anderson) arraigning flowers. She excuses herself and leaves. John tells Ruth that he has some money that he wants to leave with the purser for safe keeping. He tells her to go up on deck to watch the ship leave port and meet him later in the bar.
Up on deck Ruth meets Kay Prentiss (Marjorie Hoshelle). Getting into the spirit of things Ruth waves to the people on the dock. After the ship has left port she goes to the bar and waits for her husband. John never shows. Getting worried Ruth goes to the purser’s office. The purser (Gayne Whitman) tells her that John never showed up. When she goes back to their room she can’t get in. Ruth has the steward (Anthony Jochim) open the door. Inside it’s empty. Her luggage and her husband’s luggage are gone. The steward calls the purser who tells her that she is registered as sailing alone under her maiden name, Stanton, and she is assigned to room B-18. Both the steward and the purser look at her perplexed.
Ruth has a panic attack and passes out. When she awakens she is being comforted by the ship’s doctor, Doctor Manning (Michael Rennie). The purser questions anyone who Ruth said she was in contact with but no one remembers seeing a man with her. Captain Peters (Willis Bouchey) has the ship searched but no one unaccounted for is found. Late that night she gets a phone call from John telling her he is in danger and not to trust anyone. He says they are being watched and he will contact her again.
Ruth is now spiraling out of control and everyone aboard believes she is a mental case and making up everything. Dr. Manning is conciliatory and becoming attracted to her. He wants to help her but nothing she says can be verified. After John’s warning Ruth doesn’t know who to trust and who not to trust. She is alone on a ship full of people and the mystery of who she married and where he is, is deepening.
“Dangerous Crossing” was released in 1953 and was directed by Joseph M. Newman. It is a mystery and a film noir based on the 1943 radio play “Cabin B-13” by John Dickson Carr.
The film is basically “Gaslight” 1944 on the high seas. And it doesn’t take long for the gaslighting to begin. Right away you know something nefarious is going on when the stewardess denies ever seeing her before. You take it for granted that she’s in on whatever is going on so you keep a close eye on her. Everyone else, however, is presented in a way where they could be a party to what’s going on but, like Ruth, you don’t know the good guys from the bad guys. There are a few red herrings so who’s on whose side is muddled even more. The only thing you are certain of is that Ruth is not crazy. Something evil is going on, but like Ruth, you’re not in on it.
The noir aspects of the film add to the suspense and the tension of the film. There is so much atmosphere it hangs in the air like the fog that enshrouds the ship. Add in some really good performances by some really good actors and the guessing game is like a game of chutes and ladders. You think you know the solution and then you get knocked down a chute and have to figure it out all over again. All you can do is hold on and hope that Michael Rennie turns out to be one of the good guys.
The sets used for the movie are the same ones used for Titanic (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and A Blueprint for Murder (1953).