Side Street, 1950. 10/10

Great stuff. Farley Granger’s Joe spends almost the entire movie running from both hoods and cops. Not just running–but frantically dodging set-ups, getting ambushed, lying and being lied to–as the bodies pile up in his wake.

Meanwhile, his angelic wife Ellen (Cathy O’Donnell) is having a baby. Though she represents the ordinary world that Joe has been cut off from, even her hospital becomes a noir setting. Joe finds himself breaking into its shadowy depths at night to tell her what he’s gotten into.

All the creepy noir devices appear in Joe’s quest to ‘square’ himself: dingy motels, streets, alleys, taxis, nightclubs, bars, and the police station. And nearly always at night, or inside in the dark. Fittingly, he has to go to a funeral parlor to locate the friendly bartender.

His initial mistake conceals a greater risk; stealing $30,000 is a lot different than the $200 he thought he had taken. Amplifying the danger by this clever device shows that the noir world, once entered, can easily overwhelm the average man.

Granger is just the right actor for his role. He unwillingly becomes a man of action, all the more desperate because of his essentially passive demeanor. The casting is uniformly good; even the small roles of the bartenders and cab drivers are interesting figures.

Although the dialogue is well-written, this is very much a visual experience. The menacing atmosphere suffocates like Garsell’s murder technique. To cap off all this relentless mayhem, we get a long, very authentic car chase.

Joe gets through it all, but ends up injured, lying helpless in the ambulance. He’s on the road back to the ordinary world, just in time to join his newborn. 10/10.

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