Detective Sgt. Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) despises criminals. Loves nothing better than burying his knuckles into some hoodlums ribcage. Sometimes you hear the crack. That wince of pain is also satisfying. Better still, landing a clean, perfectly placed right hook, pow, straight to the jaw. He punches the air. If you’re lucky you’ll catch that sweet moment when the lights go out within their eyes. He smiles with the thought.
His father had been a small time crook. Stupid. Armed robbery of a liquor store. Locked up. He’d seen first hand what it does to families. The destructive nature of the criminal. Yep he detested them. He became a cop. I ain’t my father? He’ll show them. Each and everyone. He’d become a bit notorious down at the 16th precinct and a celebrity with the tabloids. The newspapers happy to publish his criminal takedowns. His precinct not so keen with his methods of brute force. “Your job is to detect criminals Dixon, not to punish them!”
He got results. It made him feel better. He was keeping the streets clean. Safe. Unfortunately his vicious nature was just about to catch up with him and bring him to Where The Sidewalk Ends.
Mark Dixon had his eyes on the nasal vaping gangster boss, Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill). They constantly locked horns. Scalise was cool with a loyal gang around him. Dixon couldn’t get to him. Scalise knew his moves, kept his business tight. Dixon was obsessed. If he waited long enough, Scalise would mess up. He’d make a mistake. Dixon was ready was to jump. “I’d bring that lowlife down, first with my fists and then with the cuffs.”
His moment was coming. Something dodgy was going down at an illegal dice game. Big money was on the table. Scalisi was patient. Nineteen thousands dollars was riding in the lucky hands of a Texas tycoon called Morrison (Harry von Zell). Scalisi and his boys had the game rigged. Come on! Just one more throw of the dice. Morrison had company for the night with the beautiful Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney). Little did Morrison know his next roll would lighten the roll of cash in his hand. Morgan was tired. “Take me home, please”
From that moment on Mark Dixon eyes were focused. He would become Scalisi’s shadow. Unfortunately for Dixon he’s soon to be hiding in the shadows himself. His world as the tough, good guy, raging out justice and pain to the thugs of Manhattan might be coming to end. Sucker punches, beatings and violence followed like the Grim Reaper. What was going on? How was he going to escape being the one thing he despised?
Det. Sgt. Mark Dixon – “Innocent people can get into terrible jams too. One false move and you’re over your head.”
A Few Things To Add
- Where The Sidewalk Ends is directed by Otto Preminger who has an incredible body of work to his name. With a good bunch of film noirs like the classic Laura and others like Fallen Angel and Whirlpool. He also hit the musicals with Porgy and Bess and Carmen Jones. Plus a selection of brilliant sounding films all with Saul Bass posters I need to see, pronto. In Harm’s Way, Advise & Consent, The Man with the Golden Arm and of course Anatomy of a Murder. I have some truly fantastic viewing coming my way very soon. Oo and I just noticed Angel Face to add to the noirs! Spoilt for choice.
- Based on a book by William L Stuart called Night Cry. Though I could not say how much the film resembles the novel as the film is credited to three for the story and then Ben Hecht on screenplay duties.
- Also stars Mark’s partner Det. Paul Klein (Bert Freed). Morgan’s taxi driver Dad Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully). New 16th precinct boss Lt. Thomas (Karl Malden). Morgan’s ex partner Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) and last of all Tommy Scalise loyal muscle, the tough hood Steve (Neville Brand).
- The opening scene is excellent showing footsteps walking along the pavement of the sidewalk as the the titles are boldly writing in white chalk to the sound of a whistling man.
- What is Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill) snorting throughout the film? Lee Marvin’s character is addicted to it also in the superb “colour” noir, 1955s Violent Saturday.
- One of the best bits that lightens the darkness is the banter with the landlady of Martha’s Cafe (Ruth Donnelly) where Mark takes the lovely Morgan on a “date”.
Mark – “It’s the worst food in town, but don’t worry. They usually serve a stomach pump with the dessert.” Martha – “Who invited you to come to my restaurant, Mr. Detective? Not me!” Mark – “Bring us two of your dangerous dinners, Martha.” Martha – “You know how much I’ve been offered to poison this man?” Mark – “Ten dollars?” Martha – “That’s right. I’m holding out for fifteen. Two dinners. Do you want wine?” Mark – “Bring a small bottle” Martha – “Huh! Same old cheapskate!“
Now Where The Sidewalk Ends gripped me right out the gate. The lush greyscale of the photography made the black and white shadows so rich and raw. The dialogue and quick witted banter flew round aplenty keeping this film noir busling along. The pace is tight and filled with surprising ultraviolence for a film from 1950. The punches surprise. Sucker punches that really hit home. I had to rewind one just to slow it down to see how on Earth they filmed it. It was savage and straight at the screen. The script makes you feel for the characters. You’re of the edge of your seat. Desperate to see how it will all play out. Every now and then you hit these films that really resonate home. Yep this film was perfect for me. I wanna watch it again. What about you? Have you seen this one? What’s your favourite Otto Preminger? I got a whole heap of wonderful catching up to do.
Keep watching the the screens. Thanks for popping on by.