Film Noir Double-Header: Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) + The Big Heat (1953)

April 26, 2016 | By


I’m keeping it brief to finish up a review of Adam Rifkin’s Giuseppe Makes a Movie (2014) and a book review of Noel Mellor’s Adventures in VHS (2016), so just posted is a pair of fine film noirs – one by a venerated autocratic German Expressionist, and the other a rather maligned producer-director better known for one breakthrough noir and late career epics.

Twilight Time’s release of Otto Preminger’s Where the Sidewalk Ends (1951) highlights the director’s genuine skill in wringing maximum tension from a taut storyline, and reinforces the stand that Laura (1944), his breakthrough noir, wasn’t a fluke. Preminger made several genre entries, but he morphed into a precursor of Oliver Stone – a provocateur who made pictures on hot-button topics – pregnancy, race relations, rape – and migrated to what some would regard as bloated epics.

He also knew – perhaps taking a concept neatly refined by Alfred Hitchcock – that a director could and should brand himself in order to generate excitement around a project before, during, and after production. Preminger didn’t seem intent on establish a cult of rabid fans, but it was a valuable survival tactic for a filmmaker determined to stay free from studio interference, working as his own producer-director yet maintaining ties with a releasing company like United Artists – the most commercially and critically successful including the drug addiction drama The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and the super-epic Exodus (1960), based on Leon Uris’ best-selling novel (and now a new TT Blu-ray of which a review will follow next week, flanked by a review of 2015’s AdmiralMichiel de Ruyter).

Fritz Lang’s American period may have lacked the massive budgets of his silent German productions – he was often treated like a God, working his crews through long hours to match his meticulously crafted cinematic visions – but The Big Heat (1953) is one of those films that keep getting better with repeated viewings.

It is a near-perfect thriller with a superb cast, and a meanness that’s still quite potent, and TT’s new Blu-ray meets the needs of fans who weren’t able to snag a copy when the film first appeared in 2012 on Blu. Dubbed the Encore Edition, the 2016 disc features new extras – commentary and a pair of interview featurettes – and gives noir fans another chance to grab this classic.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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