For Criterion Consideration: Otto Preminger’s Where The Sidewalk Ends

While the ‘auteur theory’ may be a popular way of deciphering just how influential and important a filmmaker truly is, one director who, time and again, broke the mold may very well be behind some of the greatest and most underrated cinematic gems of his day.

Otto Preminger, best known for films like Anatomy Of Murder and the brilliant noir Laura, made a career out of jumping from genre to genre, narrative style to narrative style. He directed musicals (Carmen Jones) comedies (The Moon Is Blue) and even one of the greatest Frank Sinatra pictures, Man With The Golden Arm, all creating one of the most intriguing filmmographies that cinema has to offer. And while he has some consensus masterpiece, much of the director’s resume has become somewhat forgotten. However, that all will hopefully change, particularly with one of his best works, a noir entitled When The Sidewalk Ends.

Based on a novel penned by William Stuart entitled Night Cry, the film is best described as a ‘sins-of-the-father’ style noir, following a policeman with a vendetta against all criminals due to his father’s history as one. The picture stars Dana Andrews as police detective Mark Dixon, an officer hell bent on wiping the city clean of crooks due to his father’s storied history as a criminal himself. With all the noir trappings you can shove into frame, Sidewalk is both one of director Preminger’s greatest works and also one of the genre’s most underrated masterpieces.


Often finding comparisons to Preminger’s better known noir, Laura, this may very well be a greater member of the genre. Drenched in noir atmosphere, the film’s greatest aspect is the visual director behind the camera. Lyrical in its cinematic language, each filmic phrase that Preminger thrusts upon the screen is as thrilling and bleak as the next. Featuring brilliant lighting and a core emotional relationship that fits the genre like a black and white glove, Sidewalk is a gorgeous watershed moment for a genre that has become one of the most popular and vital genres around.

Performance wise, the film is top notch. The pair of Dana Andrews and his femme Gene Tierney, the film thrives when these two share the screen, even having the pair be the focus of the film’s best scene. The first kiss between the pair is a brilliantly crafted sequence, one that had been led up to with such a skilled hand that it absolutely pops off the screen. A masterful sequence on every level, the performances really carry it home. Andrews is the perfect cop-with-a-shady-past type lead that made its home within noir, and his face is a perfect palette for Preminger’s narrative to play out on. Tierney is the perfect femme fatale to have Andrews play off of, and their chemistry is as vital and full of life as Preminger’s frame.  Toss in supporting actors like Tom Tully and Karl Malden, and you have a cast that could rival any noir picture.

Where The Sidewalk Ends may not be as well remembered as a film like Double Indemnity or even Otto Preminger’s Laura, but it should be. Featuring a director at the very top of his game and a collection of actors lighting up the screen with their chemistry, Sidewalk is truly a watershed film for a genre that at one time was fodder for some of the greatest films ever committed to celluloid. A luscious feature, a Criterion Collection Blu-ray could do wonders for the film, and with Criterion having a great history of giving expansive supplement collections to their noir releases, this could be a perfect picture to add to their mid-year slate. Preminger is a filmmaker that deserves all the love and appreciation he can get, so who better to do that than The Criterion Collection?

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.