Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where the Sidewalk Ends. B

It's hard not to see Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends and declare it insubstantial and weak next to Laura (both movies feature Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney). But just because it doesn't compare to a great film doesn't mean it's a bad one. On the contrary, this is perfectly suitable stuff for noir fans, though if you're trying to hook someone on the genre with this, they'll probably say, "So, what's the big deal with these noirs, anyway?" Im admittedly not a huge Dana Andrews fan, and my reasoning isn't entirely subjective. In the movie, there is no question that his character, a detective named Dixon, is in full monochrome mode, and Andrews eats it up. The result is one of the most uninteresting detectives noir has ever known. Dixon does not seem to know a world where there is light, humor, and happiness. He is always straight-faced and solemn. His mouth is a thin, curved line that is rarely broken. And when it is, it is usually to express anger towards his friends or enemies, who are actually one and same. You would hope that the presence of Gene Tierney would loosen him up a bit, release some of the resentment and frustration and longing boiling up inside him. But I suppose because of his personality and the plot itself, this is not possible. Throughout the movie, Dixon is trying to conceal an accidental murder he committed when he beats up a shady war hero. The conflict isn't so much Dixon working to hide his guilt, but trying to decide the right thing to do. It's a pretty interesting movie, but the problem is it's lacking any real interesting or colorful characters (this was the great strength of Laura), and more importantly, speculation on an idea. Love, obsession, regret. The movie touches on these, but it never lingers on them.

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