EDGE OF DOOM. Samuel Goldwyn, 1950. Released in Britain as Stronger Than Fear. Dana Andrews, Farley Granger, Joan Evans, Robert Keith, Paul Stewart, Mala Powers, Adele Jergens, Harold Vermilyea, Douglas Fowley and Ray Teal. Screenplay by Charles Brackett, Ben Hecht and Philip Yordan, from the novel by Leo Brady. Directed by Mark Robson.

   A powerful and moving film noir despite some pasted-in tampering.

   Farley Granger stars as Martin Lynn, a hard-working young man up against it: low-pay, a sick mother, and in love with a woman he can’t afford to marry. He has also carried a grudge against the Catholic Church ever since his father’s death by suicide years earlier.

   Brackett, Hecht and Yordan sketch out his dilemma in a few pungent scenes as Martin frets over his mom, all but begs for a raise to move her to a healthier climate — and gets warmly refused. Director Robson handles it quickly, in a prosaic, sunlit style, contrasted with Granger’s politely controlled desperation, then moves to moodiness when Mom dies, leaving Martin shadowed in guilt—and determined to give her a fine funeral.

   Things progress with a fine scene, written and played perfectly as Martin argues with the parish priest over what is clearly going to be a charity job. He’s up against Harold Verrmilyea, who had a good line in bent lawyers and venal medicos in those days. Here he’s cast as a burned-out priest who has lost the warmth and care Martin so badly needs. His dour refusal clashes with Martin’s growing angst and the young man’s well-bred manners visibly disintegrate when Vermilyea tosses him a buck for cab fare; more frustrated than angry, he clubs the priest to death with a heavy metal cross.

   From here on, Edge of Doom moves solidly into noir territory, following Martin through a nightmare of suspicion, dread and guilt like a tortured Raskolnikov, harassed by hard cops (Robert Keith, Douglas Fowley and Ray Teal at their nastiest) befriended by Dana Andrews as Vermilyea’s compassionate successor, and tempted by sardonic Paul Stewart as a petty crook.

   Edge is well played and poignantly written, but what struck me most was the steep visual style imparted by director Robson and photographer Harry Stradling. Together they fill the frame with vertical lines: tall buildings, high windows and elongated door frames, imparting a unique and evocative look to visually reinforce Edge’s themes of alienation and redemption.

   Vertical lines serve to isolate Farley Granger’s character on the screen, and suggest oppression. But they also convey salvation. The great cathedrals and many other religious structures are traditionally designed with strong vertical lines, lifting the eye upward to the heavens. And so it is here, as the viewer sees on a subconscious level that Martin has a chance to rise from the mess of his life… and wonders if he’ll take it.

   I’ll just add here that after some negative preview feedback — and, I suspect (but have no evidence for) pressure from the Church — producer Sam Goldwyn ordered Dana Andrews back for some additional scenes, showing him as a knowing but compassionate priest to further counterbalance Harold Vermilyea’s unsympathetic portrayal. They also added a prologue and epilogue to show us everything’s just fine, go home folks, and don’t worry, your Priest knows best.

   And I won’t comment on that except to say it doesn’t spoil a gripping and eloquent film.