A struggling young father-to-be gives in to temptation and impulsively steals money from the office of a shady lawyer - with catastrophic consequences.A struggling young father-to-be gives in to temptation and impulsively steals money from the office of a shady lawyer - with catastrophic consequences.A struggling young father-to-be gives in to temptation and impulsively steals money from the office of a shady lawyer - with catastrophic consequences.
And so goes one of those stories that one might find under the dictionary if one went to look for B-noir archetypes (A-noir would probably be Double Indemnity, if it could be considered as such). Even if the femme fatale is reduced to a supporting role (Jean Hagen as the floozy Harriet, a nightclub singer who has a great scene with Granger's Joe), you've got the existential protagonist who's down on his luck and can't stand being a criminal for too long, and the cops who are out to get him and whomever, and the real villain (George played by James Craig fairly typically) who is the most desperate of all to escape at all costs. Granger and O'Connell come close to doing a reprisal of their parts in They Live By Night, only this time with the complication of a baby thrown in right away, and the sides of good conscience always present except for an instance (really amusing) when she screams on the phone to Joe "RUN, RUN AWAY" when prodded to talk him out of what he's doing by the cops.
A lot of this, to those who are only somewhat familiar with the attitude of a solid noir thriller, isn't too surprising, and comes close to being average in story material. But it's heightened terrifically by Anthony Mann's direction; it would be one thing if material like this, which could be found in any pulp mystery magazine of the period for ten cents, was filmed with only competence and some skill in the storytelling. But many of the images in Side Street are indelible and essential for the sub-genre. If for nothing else it's a tour-de-force as far as pure film-making goes, as shots in the shadows are incredible (I loved the nightclub scene in the first images, cutting back and forth between Joe and Harriet), and the editing to go along with it is taut and hard-edged for the period and budget, particularly in the climactic chase through New York City's downtown areas. And, if nothing else should strike as a reason to see it, as far as NYC movies go it's a keeper, with the feeling as gritty as possible through the use of real streets and people and cars and accidents and dark alleys.
- Aug 19, 2007