Director: Otto Preminger
Cast: Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Karl Malden, Gary Merrill
Detective Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) is a cop loaded with demons. He hates criminals because his father had been one. Dixon is a brutal cop who does not have to follow the rules. A predecessor to Dirty Harry, Dixon sees the law as too soft on criminals.
Set in New York, the film is a dark look at Dixon’s obsessive pursuit of gangster Tommy Scalise, a former associate of his father. Preminger portrays Dixon as a loner, haunted by the past without a moral compass. While in pursuit of Scalise, Dixon accidently kills Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) and covers it up causing Paine’s former father in law to be arrested for the crime. He begins a relationship with Morgan (Gene Tierney), a fashion model and Paine’s ex-wife which will eventually will make Dixon confess to his crime.
Preminger, like Fritz Lang, was a student of German Expressionism which begat Film Noir. From the mid 1940’s to the early 1950’s Preminger produced a series of noir classics starting with Laura, Fallen Angel, Whirlpool, Angel Face and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Working with cinematographer Joseph LaShelle in Where the Sidewalks End, they created a claustrophobic bleak seedy post world war two vision of 1950’s America.
Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney who both starred in Preminger’s Laura some six years earlier are solid in their roles. Andrews plays Dixon as a tight lipped, full of rage, ready to explode detective whose only outlet is to take it out on the gangster scum controlling the grimy streets. Tierney is also very good as Morgan showing off a kind gentle nature almost the opposite of everyone else in the film. The cast also includes Gary Merrill, as Scalise, Karl Malden as Detective Lt. Thomas and Neville Brand as one of Scalise’s hood. The only false note is the somewhat happy ending that truly breaks the mood. Otherwise, this is one of the darkest grittiest film noirs you’ll ever see.
By John Greco