Det. Sgt. Mark Dixon always wanted to be something his old man wasn't: a guy on the right side of the law. But for a good guy, he's awfully vicious. After several complaints over his roughing people up, his boss, Insp. Nicholas Foley, demotes him. Foley tells him he's a good man, but needs to get his head on straight and be more like Det. Lt. Thomas, who has just gotten a promotion. Meanwhile, Tommy Scalise has an illegal dice game going and is looking to make a sucker out of the rich Ted Morrison, who was brought in by Ken Paine and his beautiful wife Morgan. She figures out too late her husband is using her as a decoy. Paine strikes her when she refuses to play along. The chivalrous Morrison intervenes but Paine knocks him out cold. That seems to be the worst of it, but later it turns out the guy is dead; and Paine looks guilty. Soon Dixon has fallen in love with Morgan - but not before losing his temper again and committing a terrible deed that he tries to cover up. Morgan's father... Written by
Despite the lack of a haunting theme song and the austere and humourous presence of Clifton Webb, this film is a much more exciting experience than "Laura", the other collaboration between Preminger, Andrews and Tierney. This is one of the grimmest film noir films I've ever seen, and not just in its lurid shadows and rain-drenched streets. The film is dark to its very soul. Dana Andrews plays what is now a standard stereotype: the cop who is bitter and deadly with his temper. But Andrews plays it with more honesty and humanity than most any other angry movie cop you're likely to see. Despite the fact that his character is good at heart, he is also a criminal and a killer, and the film beautifully strings him along, forcing him to serve his spiritual penance. What of course is most fun is the way that his terror over being discovered slowly comes to a boil. I've seen tons of film noir movies but I can't recall ever seeing the protagonist ever becoming the anti-hero in such a startling way. Many of the best film noir pics have that dizzying spiral theme of a man trapped by his own weakness. "Night in the City", "Detour", "Scarlet Street", "In a Lonely Place", "Act of Violence" and "Johnny Eager", are among the best of them. "Were the Sidewalk Ends" holds its own among them. Not a bad recommendation!
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