Rough Cop Caught Between the Rock and the Hard Place in Exce
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 12/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The set up and the dark photography in Otto Preminger's film noir from 1950 provide all the necessities to create a dark and morally corrupt environment. Even the title Where the Sidewalk Ends alludes to an ominous atmosphere of a looming end in a mundane environment. The opening reveals that Detective Sergeant Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) who has a record of beating up suspects, and it costs him his rank within the police force. On top of this, a peer, Thomas (Karl Malden), from his police school days is taking over as Police Chief for the 16th Precinct in which he works. It is a hard blow to his ego, as there is nothing more important to Dixon than to putting criminals behind bars.
It is within the imperfect persona performed by Dana Andrews that the story gets its captivating quality. Dixon lives a lonely life while his workaholic attitude finds nourishment in his deep fiery hatred towards criminals, which is also the reason why he finds himself in trouble with his superiors. The solitude of Dixon overshadows the whole story and it accentuates the tough elements of film noir within the film. Little by little, the story reveals why Dixon has such a strong hatred for delinquent characters, as it also provides additional support of the elements of film noir within the film.
Dixon's job brings him on long and tough shifts amidst the murky nights of New York City where he comes across a murder in a small and ritzy underground gambling club. The club happens to belong to a shady character named Tom Scalise (Gary Merrill) with whom Dixon has crossed paths with in the past. They are in good terms with one another, on the contrary Dixon treats him like the lowest scum in the world, which is an indicator that he thinks Scalise is a crook. The whole situation seems fishy to Dixon, but evidence and witnesses' point out a specific wife-abusing Kenneth Paine (Craig Stevens) as the perpetrator.
Despite Dixon's personal objections to the suspect's identity, he must investigate the lead. When Dixon knocks on Paine's door he finds him drunk talking on the phone while also unaware of why the police would like to see him. In the drunken stupor, Paine tries to strike him with a bottle, but Dixon reacts quickly in his usual manner by striking back. However, it is the last time for Dixon to strike a suspect, as Paine ceases to breathe after a fall. The fear crawling over his face after becoming aware of Paine's death is very noticeable, but subtle expressions suggest that he is considering his options. Dixon is aware of people's knowledge of his aggressive nature towards criminals while the warning from his supervisor echoes in his head.
Cornered without witnesses observing the act of self-defense Dixon begin to choose the path he so much despises. The audience is aware of the events taking place, but the audience is also aware of how the situation will be interpreted, a cop going overboard and killed a suspect in the process. It is within this moral predicament of justice where the cinematic value emerges, as Dixon also begins to develop strong feelings for Paine's wife Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney). The film becomes increasingly more complex, as with it its complexity a fascinating film noir emerges that struggles with right and wrong while scrutinize a man's conscious and moral fabric."
Moviefanatic | Chicago, Il | 10/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's very exciting to f-i-n-a-l-l-y see this movie released on DVD in the United States. I was thrilled to see it released in the UK by the British Film Institute last year along with 'Whirlpool' and 'Thje Fallen Angel'. This is one of the best film noir. Dana Andrews and Gene have incredible on-screen chemistry and Dana Andrew's performance is simply phenomenal. Cannot go wrong with this one. A 'must to have' for any serious film noir lover."
A solid noir, thanks to Otto Preminger's direction and Josep
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's a hole as big as Carlsbad Caverns right in the middle of the plot. What is so surprising is that, thanks to Otto Preminger's skill and that of his cinematographer, Joseph LaShelle, how the story is told more than makes up for it. Here's the set-up. A police detective with a well-earned reputation for beating up low-lifes tracks down a suspect in a murder. The guy is drunk and the cop is impatient. One thing leads to another and the guy stands up and smacks the cop on the chin. While the cop is picking himself up, the guy reaches for a whiskey bottle and starts to bring it down on the cop's head. The cop blocks that swing, then punches the guy hard, and I mean hard, right in the chest, then connects just as hard with the guy's chin. The guy goes down and doesn't get up. He's dead. So now we're off on a plot-line where the cop's hatred of crooks, which is based on some family issues, suddenly has him hiding the corpse. Wouldn't you know it, the corpse is found...and an aggressive young precinct head decides that the man responsible is the father of a girl the detective starts to fall for. And while this is going on, the detective hasn't stopped his obsessive search for the crook he thinks is really behind the original murder, a sneering mobster with a fondness for nasal inhalers.
Wait, now. Any cop who hit and accidently killed a guy in self defense would instantly have a wall of blue thrown protectively around him, no matter how hard a case he might be. Every resource would be used to see that the cop was exonerated. I know, I know, this is a movie, but Detective Mark Dixon's (Dana Andrews) reaction is so excessive that it becomes nothing more than a glaring plot device. And, in my view, that undermines the tension of the movie.
Another thing that doesn't help is that both Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney (as Margaret Taylor, who becomes Dixon's love interest) are, in my opinion, not compelling actors. Andrews had a great voice but, to my way of thinking, a somewhat wooden face and a stolid acting style. Sometimes he was effective, sometimes not. Tierney is, as usual, gorgeous to look at, but she is no actress. She seems to spend all her time in this movie either being noble toward the man Dixon accidently killed, or noble and loving toward her father, or noble and loving toward Dixon. I'm fairly well convinced that her performance in Leave Her to Heaven, a first-rate acting job, was some mysterious and happy accident.
Some critics have made much of the apparent moral ambiguity in Mark Dixon's character. I don't quite see it that way. Yes, he hates crooks for reasons a psychoanalyst could help him deal with. When given a semi-legal chance to rough them up, he does. But there is no moral ambiguity in his character. He may be an angry man, but he has friends. He doesn't need to agonize about spending his savings to help another person; he just does it. Dixon is a man with problems, but moral ambiguity isn't one of them.
Because of all this, what's important in this movie is how Preminger and LaShelle go about telling the story, not the story itself. They do terrific jobs. The feel of the movie captures Dixon's anger, his short fuse, his loneliness. The movie looks gritty, dark and authentic. Small details add a lot to the sense of reality. When we walk into Dixon's small apartment we can see just a quick glimpse of an icebox behind a screen. Even in 1950 there were a lot of iceboxes still around. The bar where Dixon's partner orders a scotch and water looks like any number of old, dark downtown bars. Margaret Taylor's apartment is tiny. There's no bedroom, just a single bed next to the wall as you walk in. And the movie has faces, actors you sort of recognize who look right for their parts...Tom Tully as Margaret's father, Bert Freed as his partner, Ruth Donnelly as Gladys, the owner of a small Italian restaurant, Karl Malden as the new precinct captain, Neville Brand as one of the goons; even Gary Merrill who overacts a little looks the part as Tommy Scalise, the mobster. Brand, in particular, looks like a man you never want to irritate.
I enjoyed the movie because it was so well put together. That hole in the plot, however, kept me from getting very involved with the story-line. The DVD transfer looks just fine. The major extra is a commentary by Eddie Muller, identified as a film noir historian. I didn't listen to the commentary but Muller has gotten good notices for his noir work."
"Killing a cop brings down too much heat."
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 12/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In Where the Sidewalk Ends, Dana Andrews stars as the blustery and hot-heated Manhattan detective Mark Dixon. Mark has got himself a bit of reputation around the 16th precinct for excessive brutality while on the job. Inspector Foley (Robert Simon) has just reduced him in rank to a second grade detective after a number of citizen complaints about his rough treatment. Having come from a gangster background, Mark especially hates hoods, and always goes out of his way to bash them up.
Lt. Bill Thomas (Karl Malden) has become the new head of the precinct, when that night a wealthy Texan, Ted Morrison (Harry Von Zell), is found stabbed to death at a midtown Manhattan hotel, where he was in a crap game run by racketeer Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill). Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) hustled Morrison to attend the crap game and used his separated beautiful model wife Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney) as a lure.
Taking the law into his own hands, and remaining true to his impetuous nature, Mark decides to visit Ken's apartment to arrest him, but Paine attacks him so Mark counters with one blow ... which leaves Paine dead. Told over the phone that the dead man was a decorated war hero, Mark dumps the body and covers up the crime, hoping to pin the murder on Tommy Scalise, who everyone thinks was most likely responsible for the original killing.
In the mean time, Mark meets and falls in love with Morgan and re-acquaints himself with her father, cabdriver Jiggs (Tom Tully). But now he's faced with a dilemma, should he come clean to Morgan about her ex-husband's murder, or should he try and hide what's he's done and hope that his detective colleagues will be able to pin the crime on someone else? The situation becomes even worse when Lt. Bill Thomas becomes convinced that Jiggs was responsible for the killing.
Where The Sidewalk Ends is basically a gangster story involving a crooked cop, who is seeking to redeem himself. It's a slick, intensely acted, and totally atmospheric noir thriller, that is most notable for Dana Andrew brilliant and haunting portrayal of a law enforcement officer who just can't keep his emotions in check. He's a complicated character is revealed through his spells of violence and the anguish that still haunts him. Mark becomes trapped in a web of circumstances that are beyond his control; he's archetypical noir hero whose moral dilemma has far-reaching consequences for all involved.
Gene Tierney also lends considerable glamour and class to the proceedings as Morgan, and her scenes with Andrews are bubble over with chemistry, their characters are a good fit, and they look great together. But it is Otto Preminger's classy direction that steals the show. He's able to create and the seemingly eternal night in New York, working up a powerful noir charge. This is a world of dark sleaze and shady criminals, and the accomplished art direction really reinforces the dark and furtive nature of the action. Mike Leonard December 05. "
Tight jawed; tense moments; 2 hour tease!
C. Forakis | CA, USA | 04/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dana and Gene are fantastic together - both characters are tortured and they take you with them on their journey to discovering love and what the test of life will mean to them both.
Dana Andrews captures the detective who is fist-fighting his father's legacy with every criminal while trying to rise above it all and do his energy's hate as penance.
Gene Tierney brings home the emotion of a woman who wants to love and be loved, but just picks the wrong guys. Then she runs into Dana Andrews and both of them learn life's lessons of love through a terrible experience that frees everyone.
The film is a bit long, but every moment is filled with character, great visual effects, and black and white is the true film color! Otto Preminger is at his calculating best.