Where the Sidewalk Ends (Director's Suite) (1950)

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Released 1-Apr-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Film-Noir Audio Commentary-Dr Geoff Mayer , La Trobe University
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 90:55 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Otto Preminger
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Dana Andrews
Gene Tierney
Gary Merrill
Bert Freed
Tom Tully
Karl Malden
Ruth Donnelly
Craig Stevens
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Cyril J. Mockridge


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, Period Consistent
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Where the Sidewalk Ends from 1950 is, in chronological order, the third film in Madman Entertainment's Director's Suite series on the films of Otto Preminger. My reviews of Fallen Angel, from 1945 and Whirlpool from 1949 can be found here.

The three films are not sold (as yet) in a box set although they are ostensibly linked by the notion that they represent some of director Otto Premingers best forays into the dark and dingy world of film noir. In fact, of the three only Where the Sidewalk Ends really comes close to the traditional film noir. Perhaps that is because of the setting, dark streets in the big city, or maybe the tone of death and redemption. Maybe it is the hard bitten dialogue of Ben Hecht (although he also wrote Whirlpool). Or maybe it is just because the film is shot at night which gives no sense of daylight.

Starting with an interesting credit sequence (a feature of all three of the Preminger series films) we see the title written on the pavement with the Street Scene musical theme whistled as a warning of the troubles to come. Then it is straight into the cop car with the chatter of police radio the only opening music. We are with the good guys - we think.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) is a good cop with a bad problem. He, like the Phantom, is "rough on roughnecks". Sure it gets results but it also gets complaints and the police department heads are sick of the trouble he makes. Mark is demoted for his latest crim beating and the incoming Lieutenant (Karl Marlden) makes it clear that he doesn't want any troubles with the rogue cop.

Mark has a big bee in his bonnet over the activities of one Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill) a crime boss who continually and gleefully outsmarts the cops. Mark is determined to bring him down. One night a murder takes place at a gambling den run by Scalise. The victim has been duped into attending the games by down-on-his-luck war hero Ken Paine (Craig Stevens). To make sure the vic' has something sweet to look at Paine brings along his estranged but sympathetic ex-wife Morgan Taylor-Paine (Gene Tierney). Both Paine and his ex scramble before the murder takes place.

When Mark is called to the crime scene he is determined to pin it on the cheshire cat grinning Scalise. Tracking down Paine, Mark tries to get him to talk but the still drunken bum takes a swing at him and Mark lashes out. Unfortunately, Mark didn't know the war hero had a plate in his head and one punch sends him six feet under.

In a hot flash instant Mark has to decide whether to fess up and risk going to jail or to cover it up. Thankfully for film noir lovers everywhere he chooses the dark path and the game is on.

Mark could probably have pulled it off without too much trouble except for the one thing tough guys never count on - the redemptive power of the dame. When interviewing Morgan, Mark is immediately smitten. Should he tell her the truth? The plot gets even more complicated when Morgan's father, who had threatened to dust up Paine next time he mistreated his daughter, is fingered for the crime and seems to be the only suspect.

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a thrilling drama that re-unites Preminger with his touchstones from Laura, Andrews and Tierney. The notoriously explosive director loved both these actors because they fit his model of the perfect performers - they turned up on time and knew their lines. Preminger had no truck with method actors who wanted to develop their characters from the ground up. He had memorised every line of his films before production and expected everyone else to be similarly prepared. It must have been amazing to be on the set of River of No Return when the unstoppable force of Preminger at his most autocratic met the untrainable force of Marilyn Monroe who turned up late every day and had her own personal acting coach, who overode Preminger to tell Marilyn how to really do the lines just before the cameras started rolling!

Foster Hirsch's great biography of Preminger, which often acts as a schedule of Preminger blow-ups, records nothing of the making of Where the Sidewalk Ends , seemingly because Preminger was in his own marital film noir at the time.

Andrews and Tierney are in good form as the rough diamond and diamond in the rough respectively. Malden plays the tough lieutenant as a tough lieutenant and Merrill makes an entertaining mob boss, using a nasal spray as an interesting affectation. The ending might be a bit on the melodramatic side (Hirsch describes it as having "the kind of tortuous plotting that stains Preminger's Fox-period noirs") but the ride is worth it. Fans of the recent Gran Torino may even see a similarity in a certain aspect of the plotting?!

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Where the Sidewalk Ends was produced and projected at the academy flat 1.37:1 aspect ratio. This Madman Entertainment DVD closely mirrors that ratio. Naturally it is not anamorphically enhanced.

Like Fallen Angel and Whirlpool this film has not gone through a detailed digital restoration, or even a decent clean up, before being issued on DVD. Whilst it might cost a lot to restore this film I can't understand why some basic clean-up could not have been carried out. Therefore the problems that plagued the other releases; being an excessive amount of blobs, scratches and marks are also a problem in Where the Sidewalk Ends. Reel change marking appear.

There are numerous instances of minor damage.

Only one year separates Whirlpool from Where the Sidewalk Ends, however, the picture quality of this film is noticeably and surprisingly worse than either of the earlier films. These problems appear to have emanated from the poor quality of the video source. The grain is really like heavy positive and negative snow. It looks like a late night film on an obscure public access channel.

It has some of the worst cross colouration I have seen. The problem is most noticeable in the transitions from dark to light. It is hard to take a hoodlum seriously when their tie is radiating colours like a Christmas tree.

It is a pity because the film is something quite special deserves better treatment.

The film is on a single layered DVD 5. Compression is not an issue due to the absence of any space gathering extras.

There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   

Where the Sidewalk Ends has a Dolby digital 2.0 mono transfer running at 224Kb/s.

The soundtrack is appropriate for the film.

The score by Cyril Mockridge is actually quite restrained only chiming in at key moments. Dialogue can be heard clearly.

There are a few pops and crackles throughout however the persistent hiss that ran through Fallen Angel is not present on this DVD. It sounds much better than it looks.

The actors appear to be in audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

As with the other releases in the Preminger series the only extras are a theatrical trailer and an audio commentary.

Theatrical Trailer

Either you like these trailers or you don't. Lots of dramatic titles screens and a voice over pitched just below the level of hyseria. A fun watch.

Audio Commentary Dr Geoff Mayer: La Trobe University

In promoting the commentary on the back of the DVD case Madman forgot to mention one thing. Not only is Dr Mayer a noted academic at La Trobe, he also wrote "the book" on film noir, well a book anyway titled "The Encyclopaedia of Film Noir" which provides a great guide to the colourful characters involved on and behind the scenes of this genre of films. Which makes Dr Mayer a perfect person to take us through Where the Sidewalk Ends. He is on top of every genre convention and pretty much knows the history of all the performers. The commentary is well ordered and researched. He sees it as a perfect fusion of three great elements: Preminger, Andrews and Hecht.

A rewarding listen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Where the Sidewalk Ends has been released in several Regions. It is fair to say that none of the Regions has an exceptional body of extras.

The Region 1 version has a commentary track by film noir historian Eddie Muller as well as the Theatrical trailer (and other trailers), a photo gallery and a 4-page booklet

The Region 2 France has two extras: "Regards sur la lumière" documentary (19:43) "Sous le travelling, le trouble" scene-specific commentary by Jean Douchet (22:50) and the theatrical trailer

Region 2 Germany merely has a photo gallery (1:45) and the Region 2 United Kingdom has the theatrical trailer and text screens featuring a biography of the Director and Screenwriter

Although there is nothing about the extras to recommend other editions over the Region 4 the picture quality of the other Regions appears better than Region 4.

Summary

    Where the Sidewalk Ends brings the Preminger series to a thematically satisfying conclusion. A good addition to an noir collection.

However, the picture quality is below what I have come to expect from Madman Entertainment, particularly as these are not budget releases. A shame. It is not the only slip-up as the sound options screen features a picture of Jimmy Stewart from another film!

The commentary is a quality extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, May 18, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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