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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
Not only was the traditional Twentieth Century Fox fanfare music not utilized at the film's opening, Alfred Newman's ubiquitous "Street Scene Theme" is whistled over the unique opening credits, appropriately written in chalk on a sidewalk. See more »
When Andrews is staging the murder scene after Stevens' death, he is gloveless. A few seconds later he suddenly has gloves on both hands. See more »
It's a wonderful day. No job. Everybody against me. My poor dad sitting in a cell... and it's a wonderful day. Isn't that amazing?
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The opening credits start as chalk writing on a sidewalk, with someone walking over them. See more »
Elegance and class are not always the first words that come to mind when folks (at least folks who might do such a thing) sit around and talk about film noir.
Yet some of the best films of the genre, "Out of the Past," "The Killers," "In A Lonely Place," "Night and the City," manage a level of sleek sophistication that elevates them beyond a moody catch phrase and its connotations of foreboding shadows, fedoras, and femme-fatales.
"Where the Sidewalk Ends," a fairly difficult to find film -- the only copy in perhaps the best stocked video store in Manhattan was a rough bootleg from the AMC cable channel -- belongs in a category with these classics.
From the moment the black cloud of opening credits pass, a curtain is drawing around rogue loner detective Marc Dixon's crumbling world, and as the moments pass, it inches ever closer, threatening suffocation.
Sure, he's that familiar "cop with a dark past", but Dana Andrews gives Dixon a bleak stare and troubled intensity that makes you as uncomfortable as he seems. And yeah, he's been smacking around suspects for too long, and the newly promoted chief (Karl Malden, in a typically robust and commanding outing) is warning him "for the last time."
Yet Dixon hates these thugs too much to stop now. And boy didn't they had have it coming?
"Hoods, dusters, mugs, gutter nickel-rats" he spits when that tough nut of a boss demotes him and rolls out all of the complaints the bureau has been receiving about Dixon's right hook. The advice is for him to cool off for his own good. But instead he takes matters into his own hands.
And what a world of trouble he finds when he relies on his instincts, and falls back on a nature that may or may not have been passed down from a generation before.
Right away he's in deep with the cops, the syndicate, his own partner. Dixon's questionable involvement in a murder "investigation" threatens his job, makes him wonder whether he is simply as base as those he has sworn to bring in. Like Bogart in "Lonely Place," can he "escape what he is?"
When he has nowhere else to turn, he discovers that he has virtually doomed his unexpected relationship with a seraphic beauty (the marvelous Gene Tierney) who seems as if she can turn his barren bachelor's existence into something worth coming home to.
The pacing of this superb film is taut and gripping. The group of writers that contributed to the production polished the script to a high gloss -- the dialogue is snappy without disintegrating into dated parody fodder, passionate without becoming melodramatic or sappy.
And all of this top-notch direction and acting isn't too slick or buffed to loosen the film's emotional hold. Gene Tierney's angelic, soft-focus beauty is used to great effect. She shows herself to be an actress of considerable range, and her gentle, kind nature is as boundless here as is her psychosis in "Leave Her to Heaven." The scenes between Tierney and Andrews's Dixon grow more intense and touching the closer he seems to self-destruction.
Near the end of his rope, cut, bruised, and exhausted Dixon summarizes his lot: "Innocent people can get into terrible jams, too,.." he says. "One false move and you're in over your head."
Perhaps what makes this film so totally compelling is the sense that things could go wildly wrong for almost anyone -- especially for someone who is trying so hard to do right -- with one slight shift in the wind, one wrong decision or punch, or, most frighteningly, due to factors you have no control over. Noir has always reflected the darkest fears, brought them to the surface. "Where the Sidewalk Ends" does so in a realistic fashion.
(One nit-pick of an aside: This otherwise sterling film has a glaringly poor dub of a blonde model that wouldn't seem out of place on Mystery Science Theater. How very odd.)
But Noir fans -- heck, ANY movie fans -- who haven't seen this one are in for a terrific treat.
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