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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Where the Sidewalk Ends: Limited Edition (Blu-ray)
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Limited Edition (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // Unrated // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Twilighttimemovies]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted February 29, 2016 | E-mail the Author

Efficient and almost effortlessly entertaining, Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) is a fine example of film noir changing with the times. As one of the first to showcase the *gasp* possibility of police corruption, our central character is a detective whose accidental crime---and reluctant cover-up of the same---eats away at him as the story unfolds. Almost everything of later consequence goes down in the first 15 minutes, too, which means he's got a long stretch of sleepless nights ahead. His name is Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews), a tough-talking member of New York's 16th Precinct who now works under a lieutenant (Karl Malden) with the same amount of experience. In recent years, Dixon's career has floundered due to his reputation as a loose cannon forever linked to his criminal father.

Things get worse for Dixon when he confronts Ken Paine (Craig Stevens), a war hero wrongfully connected with the murder of successful gambler Ted Morrison. During their tense meeting at the suspect's first-floor apartment, Ken viciously attacks the detective but is killed in self-defense after a lucky punch leads to an unlucky fall. Faced with the possibility of another demotion for his questionable reputation, Dixon attempts to cover up the involuntary manslaughter by hiding Paine's body and attempting to pin it on Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill), who most likely framed Paine for Morrison's death in the first place. We can't help but root for Dixon during the fallout...even after his partner Paul Klein (Bert Freed) suspects foul play, his new love interest---and Paine's estranged wife---Morgan (Gene Tierney) gets involved, and her father Jiggs (Tom Tully) is suspected of the crime. Soon enough, Dixon wrestles with the prospect of coming clean when faced with the thought of treading water for months or years to come.

Andrews' performance as Dixon is one key to Where the Sidewalk Ends' moderate success, from his chemistry with co-star Tierney (first ignited in Preminger's more successful Laura) to a cool-under-pressure vibe that dissolves into what could be one hell of a stomach ulcer. Dixon's growing unease is the glue that holds everything together: the burden of his father's "legacy", second-guessing every action in the company of others and, of course, the knowledge that he's killed his new girl's husband. It's interesting to watch certain threads unravel, especially since Preminger presents everything efficiently and rarely cuts if the possibility for a longer take presents itself. Like its reluctant anti-hero, Where the Sidewalk Ends has a lot of balls in the air---especially in those first 15 minutes, which may even require a second watch for new viewers to make sense of---and juggles everything quite well, even if the end result feels slightly overcooked and unbelievable at times. It's aged better than most, though, no doubt due to the (unfortunately) timeless subject matter and a handful of memorable performances by familiar and not-so-familiar faces.

Last released by Fox Home Entertainment as a 2005 DVD edition, Where the Sidewalk Ends makes a welcome jump to Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time. The already-clean A/V presentation gets a nice bump to 1080p (showcasing Joseph LaShelle's excellent cinematography) along with lossless original audio, while the recycled bonus features are appreciated even though newer ones are scarce. It's a decent enough upgrade for genre fans and even a fairly solid blind buy for new ones, even though I wouldn't blame them for trying out the much cheaper DVD edition first.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, this crisp 1080p transfer (provided by 20th Century Fox, no doubt) is a very good effort that easily eclipses the 2005 DVD release. Image detail and texture are relatively strong with deep black levels, good contrast, and no glaring amounts of dirt and debris. A mixture of location shooting (becoming more and more common as the decade progressed) and well-designed sets, Where the Sidewalk Ends should have plenty of visual seams but flows quite well from shot to shot. Digital imperfections are kept to a minimum; in fact, my only nitpick is the film's ever-so-slightly smooth and processed appearance during several scenes, especially a few close-ups. It's unknown whether or not any noise reduction was used here...but for the most part, this is a very film-like presentation that completely anchors the film's moody atmosphere. Die-hard fans should be pleased.

DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.

The main option (aside from an Isolated Music Track, presented in lossless 2.0) is a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that preserves the film's one-channel roots. This is a strong effort that features crisp dialogue and occasional moments of depth, while background effects and music cues rarely fight for attention. Volume levels and dynamic range are steady from start to finish; though it's obviously limited compared to more modern films, Where the Sidewalk Ends sounds substantially younger than its age implies. Optional English SDH subtitles are included during the main feature.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The interface is plain but perfectly functional, with quick loading time and the bare minimum of pre-menu distractions. This one-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with striking black-and-white artwork and a nice little Booklet featuring production stills, vintage promotional artwork, and the usual essay penned by TT regular Julie Kirgo.

Bonus Features

Not much on paper, but what's here is appreciated. Aside from the Isolated Music Track mentioned above, we get a feature-length Audio Commentary with Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller; this has been carried over from Fox's 2005 DVD and deserves at least one listen. Muller's delivery is laid-back and conversational, and we're treated to a well-organized and interesting commentary full of background information, scene breakdowns, educated guesses, and fascinating trivia. It's also obvious that Muller has seen Where the Sidewalk Ends plenty of times (and recently, thank goodness): there aren't many gaps and the end result is much more accessible than your average "back-patting" track or stuffy narrative, so casual and die-hard fans alike will thoroughly enjoy this one. Also here is the original Theatrical Trailer, which features plenty of action but ultimately sells the film a little short.

Final Thoughts

Though limited by a few loose ends and questionable plot elements, Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends is fine entertainment bolstered by memorable performances, heaps of atmosphere, and a story several years ahead of its time. The total package holds up perfectly well, as it feels more relevant than most classic noirs due to its subject matter and engaging central character. Twilight Time's Blu-ray doesn't offer many more supplements than Fox's 2005 DVD (which might keep more casual fans from upgrading immediately), but the A/V presentation is terrific and this well-shot production benefits from the boost in clarity. Firmly Recommended to old and new fans alike.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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