The director (Otto Preminger) and stars (Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney) of the classic film noir Laura are reunited again six years later in Where the Sidewalk Ends.
The Production: 4/5
The director (Otto Preminger) and stars (Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney) of the classic film noir Laura are reunited again six years later in Where the Sidewalk Ends. While Sidewalk isn’t a mystery and doesn’t have the obsessive romantic angle or an unforgettable David Raksin theme song, all of which made Laura one of the all-time greats, it’s nevertheless a first-rate crime drama with a conflicted hero, an innocent girl caught up in a tangled web of deceit and danger, and enough shadows and murky behaviors to warm the heart of any noir enthusiast.
Demoted by his boss for unnecessary roughness in handling criminals whom he despises, Detective Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) gets a bit too rough once again with a suspect (Craig Stevens) in a knifing murder and accidentally kills him and then attempts to disrupt the scene of the crime to throw off his colleagues. His various schemes to disguise his deed and hide evidence, however, get quickly uncovered by slick new Detective Lieutenant Thomas (Karl Malden) though the blame gets placed upon an innocent cab driver Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully), the father-in-law of the man Dixon killed. What’s more, Taylor’s beautiful daughter Morgan (Gene Tierney), whom the deceased had often battered giving the father a motive for the crime, begins to depend on Dixon to help her father out of his predicament all the while Dixon begins falling for her.
Luminary screenwriter Ben Hecht provided the clever script (adapted by Victor Trivas, Frank P. Rosenberg, and Robert E. Kent) for the film which balances lots of hard-bitten dialogue of police precincts and hoodlum lairs with quip-filled speeches from peripheral sideline characters and romantic behaviors that never descend into the maudlin or sappy. And the crime element of the script is two-pronged with Dixon not only trying to hide his own mistakes but also trying to bring down crime lord Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill) who had ordered the initial murder Dixon was investigating when he accidentally delivered the knockout punch that was instrumental in killing a Scalise underling. Cleverly, the writing, acting, and Otto Preminger’s direction never whitewash Dixon’s mistake though he never really loses the audience’s sympathy as the dastardly crooks seem to have fate on their side as they manage to elude capture in one way or another for much of the movie. Preminger directs the entire picture so fluidly that the ninety-five minutes pass as if they were thirty, and small sequences like the delivery of Dixon to Scalise near film’s end is handled with such great facility as the camera glides around and behind effortlessly without cuts that one sees how effective this kind of tightrope walking storytelling can be in the hands of a master.
Dana Andrews is perfect for this kind of tortured hero, and he gives another stellar performance of underplayed brilliance. Gene Tierney is as beautiful as always (outfitted in a succession of striking outfits by her couture designer/husband Oleg Cassini), but she doesn’t quite play the desperation as thoroughly as one might expect from having her father in such a predicament. Tom Tully as her father is excellent while Karl Malden and Robert F. Simon play Dixon’s superiors with gusto and believable knowhow. Gary Merrill offers a very interesting, sly take on the chief mobster. Don Appell as weasel-like stoolpigeon Willie Bender makes a solid impression, and Neville Brand is likewise effective as the toughest of Scalise’s hoods. Bert Freed has several impressive scenes as Dixon’s police partner, but the film is completely stolen by the wisecracking café owner Martha played to a fare-thee-well by Ruth Donnelly who walks away handily with both of her scenes in the movie.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Another gorgeous black-and-white high definition transfer from Fox, sharpness is sterling throughout with outstanding detail in facial features, hair, and fabrics easily noticeable. The grayscale is very impressive with its deep black levels and clear, clean whites. Contrast is perfectly applied and consistently maintained, and there isn’t a trace of dirt to be seen anywhere. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix offers a crisp and clean audio experience with the well-recorded dialogue always easily understandable, and Cyril J. Mockridge’s lean background score (with frequent appearances by Alfred Newman’s famous “Street Scene” theme) and the atmospheric effects always working in harmony with the spoken word. No age-related problems with hiss or crackle are present.
Special Features: 3/5
Audio Commentary: film noir historian Eddie Muller offers an expert commentary on the film identifying the stars and featured players and calling attention to the film’s strengths and weaknesses.
Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
Theatrical Trailer (1:47, SD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains a fine collection of black and white stills, re-release poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s appreciative essay on the film’s quality.
Twilight Time brings us another striking film noir in high definition with Where the Sidewalk Ends with outstanding video and audio quality and always appreciated bonus content. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested in purchasing it should go to either www.twilighttimemovies.com or www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.Buy The Last Detail from Twilight Time Movies .