Monday, 22 July 2013

No.198 : Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends at the IMDb

Some gritty film noir cop drama from 1950 now as some heads get cracked and some dames get kissed. We know this is going to be gritty from the off when the film’s title is chalked onto a pavement - none of your sissy titles here!

Our hard bitten hero is New York police detective Mark Dixon who, as the son of a now dead criminal, is trying a bit too hard to show what side of the law he’s on. He’s just been demoted for smacking up the suspects by his by the book commander, Karl Malden. Meanwhile a card game is going wrong. The gangster have a sucker in tow but the mark turns the tables and tries to make off with twenty large. Huge mistake. The mobsters rub him out but one of their molls fails to play along and gets a smack for her trouble.

The cops show up after everyone has split and Mark is soon on the trail of the main suspect. The suspect who’s had a few takes a swing and gets slapped on the chops for his troubles. Alas he’s a war hero with a plate in his head and promptly drops dead. Mark has a problem - call it in or hide the body. With his roughhouse reputation likely to give him bother he decides to hide the stiff.

His elaborate plan to dress up as the dead man and buy a train ticket wearing his hat goes well at first but soon circumstance and some solid police work start to unravel his scheme. Unfortunately the gangster’s moll, to whom Mark has taken a shine, gets involved when her taxi driver father starts to get the police’s attention. Mark tries to fit up a local mobster for the crime but soon his own lies come back to haunt him.

Will he do the right thing and come clean or can the frame hold? Is sending a bad man down OK even if it’s for a crime he didn’t commit? and will anyone get some sleep?

Set over one long night this is a superior police procedural with all the grime and backstabbing of an Ed McBain novel. The hero played by Dana Andrews (that’s a man’s name BTW!) is excellent as the driven and ruthless detective. I wasn’t convinced by his motivations especially when these changed after one small peck with the taxi driver’s daughter - still it was in black and white times.

There were plenty of fist fights with the violence realistic and bone crunching. The bad guys were suitably evil and the thin line between them and the cops was expertly drawn by director Otto Preminger. I liked how the perfect alibi was slowly unwound with Malden great in the scene where the eye witness went from convinced to sceptical in five minutes.

It was clear from the off that the bad boy detective would need some redemption but it was hard won and mostly convincing as his hard held beliefs were brought into sharp focus when the innocents started to suffer.

With no top stars, a limited budget and bleak plot this may not be the sort of film you’d look out for but it’s expertly made and has some stand out performances. Well worth looking up!

Best Bit : Punchbag at the Gym ‘W’ Rating 20/23

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