Where the Sidewalk Ends is a mildly compelling noir about a loose cannon cop (Dana Andrews) with a violent streak that gets the best of him. After beating a suspect to death, in the hopes of securing a confession, Andrews works hard to cover his tracks and bring down a criminal kingpin at the same time. Matters only get worse when a dame enters the picture.
As much as I love noir films it often feels as if a large number of them center around our hero getting caught up in a web of troubles and then spending the entire picture trying to untangle their lives. Where the Sidewalk Ends follows this same model with only the slightest added flair.
Otto Preminger is no slouch as a director. Of his works, the ones that I’ve seen, Where the Sidewalk Ends rises high, ranking up there with Bunny Lake Is Missing, Anatomy of a Murder, The Man with the Golden Arm Laura. Crime or the criminal element is Preminger’s strong suit. Still his work has never impressed me as a master director. His films entertain me, but do little to inspire me with either their direction or their imagery. However, there is one shot three-fourths of the way into Where the Sidewalk Ends A car pulls into a parking garage, with the camera mounted inside the car’s back-seat, its gaze looking past the passengers in the front seat and out through the wind-shield. The car then pulls into a claustrophobic elevator and is lifted to a new floor. The shot continues and when the doors open. Suddenly, we are privy to an expansive space. This lengthy take with its shifting scale in space and depth is unlike anything we’ve seen to this point in the film and it will not be matched later in the film. It’s a beautiful anomaly.