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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 August 2011
Side Street

Joe Norson doesn't have the cold toughness it takes to be a criminal.

Side Street is directed by Anthony Mann and written by Sydney Boehm. It stars Farley Granger, Cathy O'Donnell, James Craig, Jean Hagen, Paul Kelly, Paul Harvey, Edmon Ryan and Charles McGraw. Music is by Lennie Hayton (original) and Cole Porter (non original), and cinematography is by Joseph Ruttenberg.

Joe Norson (Granger) is desperate for a full time job so he can support his pregnant wife Ellen (O'Donnell). Ever since he lost the filling station he invested in, Joe has struggled to get on top of things. Working part time as a mail carrier, Joe is tempted to steal what he thinks is $200 dollars from a lawyers office he delivered to earlier on his rounds. However, when he gets time to examine his plunder he finds there is in fact $30,000. This is merely the start of his problems, for the money is crooked and sure to be sorely missed by some very tough people. As he frets on how to get out of this mess, the police and the bad guys begin to draw ever closer.

After the winning chemistry that arose out of Granger and O'Donnell's previous pairing for They Live By Night in 1948 (Nicholas Ray), it was no surprise to see them team up again for another slice of noirish pie. With Anthony Mann in the directing chair, having already established himself with the likes of T-Men and Raw Deal, and a decent budget in place, Side Street was in good hands. While although master cinematographer John Alton wasn't available, 4 time Oscar winner Joseph Ruttenberg was no small fry himself. Shooting in and around real New York locations, Mann and Ruttenberg give the film a real sense of authenticity, yes the plot takes some stretching of the imagination, but visually the picture is most appealing to the film noir fan. Be it aerial shots of the maze like Lower Manhattan setting or the shadowy flecked interiors that cloak the characters, Side Street showcases some strengths of director and photographer alike.

Certainly inferior to They Live By Night, and only mid tier of the noir pictures helmed by Mann, Side Street none the less still functions real well as a taut story that features a classic noir protagonist seemingly doomed by his actions. Even though Joe Norson is wimpy, idiotic even, the narrative spins him into a sequence of events that make for some riveting sweaty panic, and sweaty panic is something that Granger does considerably well here. There's no great fleshing out of the romance between husband and wife, because Joe is on the run around mostly, so O'Donnell is more of a secondary character, but we do feel the love and this helps considerably for the last quarter of the film.

It does at times feel like a hammer is tapping us on the forehead with its "Crime Doesn't Pay" morality, however, the bursts of violence bite hard and with Mann adroit in his action construction (a high speed car pursuit in the finale is top draw), film manages to rise above its flaws to entertain fully. In support it's Kelly (narrating and head investigative copper), Ryan (cagey lawyer) and Hagen (torch singer who likes a drink) who leave the best marks, while McGraw, arguably miscast as a good guy, is still good value for a gruff voiced presence. It does feel like an illegitimate second cousin to The Naked City, and a touch more claustrophobia wouldn't have gone amiss on the atmospheric front, but Side Street is a comfortable recommendation to the crime/film noir fan. 7/10

They Live By Night

Quite a debut from Nicholas Ray.

They Live By Night (AKA: The Twisted Road) is directed by Nicholas Ray and written by Ray and Charles Schnee who adapt from Edward Anderson's novel Thieves Like Us. It stars Cathy O'Donnell, Farley Granger, Howard Da Silva & Jay C. Flippen. Produced by John Houseman out of RKO, it's photographed by George E. Diskant and music is by Leigh Harline.

Ray's debut feature (it was actually wrapped in 1947) is a potent piece of film noir set during the Great Depression. Story follows Bowie (Granger), a naive young man who escapes from prison with two hardened criminals, Chicamaw (Da Silva) & T-Dub (Flippen), and finds unexpected love in the form of the almost saintly Keechie (O'Donnell). However, he finds that no matter what his good intentions are, crime just wont leave him be and with Keechie in tow, goes on the run to hopefully find a better life.

It's a pretty simple story all told, one that has been well represented in film over the years with the likes of You Only Live Once, High Sierra & Gun Crazy. But as simple as the tale is, Ray's film is very much a leading light in the sub-genre of "lovers on the lam" movies. First thing of note is that there's a movement away from the normal characters that had frequented the noir driven crime world up till now. The protagonists here are not gangsters or private investigators, they are thieves, and country folk too. This offers up a different viewing character wise. Admittedly the protagonists are shrouded in classic film noir hopelessness, where the air of desperation hangs heavy throughout, but the characterisation shift gives the simple story a lift.

From the outset it's evident that this is an intriguing, even curious, picture. A shot of our loving couple sharing a kiss is accompanied with a title card telling us that they were never properly introduced to the world we live in. A blast of Harline's music startles them and we then cut to an aerial shot (Ray leading the way for helicopter shots) of the three escapee's in the getaway car. In those 30 seconds Ray has managed to convey that his film will be an energetic, yet doom laden, love story. Quite a feat for a fledgling director to be unique right from the off. It's interesting to note that Ray himself said that he wasn't trying to make a film noir movie, he was merely telling a tragic love story. Just another point of reference as to why the film is so fascinating.

Be that as it may, They Live By Night pulses with noir blood. From its perpetual moody atmospherics, to the romantic narrative being punctured by moments of violence, it deserves its classic film noir status. 8/10
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 February 2011
Warner Home Video presents "THEY LIVE BY NIGHT & SIDE STREET" (1948/1950) (177 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- This classic film noir collection contains a double feature pairing RKO's They Live By Night and MGM's Side Street, both starring Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell.

Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe Hollywood crime dramas that set their protagonists in a world perceived as inherently corrupt and unsympathetic -- Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s -- Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography, while many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression -- the term film noir (French for "black film"), first applied to Hollywood movies by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unknown to most of the American filmmakers and actors while they were creating the classic film noirs -- the canon of film noir was defined in retrospect by film historians and critics; many of those involved in the making of film noir later professed to be unaware at the time of having created a distinctive type of film.

First up we have "THEY LIVE BY NIGHT" (1948) (95 min. B/W) -- Starring Farley Granger, Cathy O'Donnell, Howard Da Silva, Jay C. Flippen & Helen Craig -- Directed by Nicholas Ray

In the '30s, three prisoners flee from a state prison farm in Mississippi. Among them is 23-years-young Bowie, who spent the last seven years in prison and now hopes to be able to prove his innocence or retire to a home in the mountains and live in peace together with his new love, Kitty. But his criminal companions persuade him to participate in several heists, and soon the police believe him to be their leader and go after "Bowie the Kid" harder than ever.

They Live by Night has since gained stature as one of the most sensitive and least-predictable entries in the film noir genre. The film was based on a novel by Edward Anderson, and was director Nicholas Ray's first feature.

1. Nicholas Ray [Director]
Date of Birth: 7 August 1911 - Galesville, Wisconsin
Date of Death: 16 June 1979 - New York City, New York

2. Cathy O'Donnell [aka: Ann Steely]
Date of Birth: 6 July 1923 - Siluria, Alabama
Date of Death: 11 April 1970 - Los Angeles, California

3. Farley Granger
Date of Birth: 1 July 1925 - San Jose, California
Date of Death: Still Living

Second on the double bill "SIDE STREET (1950) (82 min. B/W) -- Starring Farley Granger, Cathy O'Donnell, James Craig, Paul Kelly, Jean Hagen, Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens, Harry Bellaver & Whit Bissell -- Directed by Anthony Mann

Joe Norson, a poor letter carrier with a sweet, pregnant wife, yields to momentary temptation and steals $30,000 belonging to a pair of ruthless blackmailers who won't stop at murder. After a few days of soul-searching, Joe offers to return the money, only to find that the "friend" he left it with has absconded. Now every move Joe makes plunges him deeper into trouble, as he's pursued and pursuing through the shadowy, sinister side of New York.

1. Anthony Mann [Director]
Date of Birth: 30 June 1906 - San Diego, California
Date of Death: 29 April 1967 - Berlin, Germany

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 177 min on DVD ~ Warner Home Video ~ (07/31/2007)
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on 27 August 2014
Delivered on time, well wrapped and labelled. The picture was very clear and the sound quality was great for this own movie. It was two for the price of one, as both films were worth watching. Great bargain!!
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on 5 June 2015
They Live By Night - Rubbish,totally overrated bla bla bla movie. Side Streek - Decent
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