Dark End of the Street, The (1981)

Dark End of the Street, The (1981)

“Something bad happens, it’s gotta be someone’s fault.”

When a white teenager (Laura Harrington) and her boyfriend (Henry Tomaszewski) witness the accidental death of a black friend (Terence Grey) and are afraid to report it, another black teenager (Albert Eaton) — the brother of Harrington’s best friend (Michele Greene) — is falsely accused of foul play.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Falsely Accused
  • Race Relations

This obscure indie film by writer-director Jan Egleson (whose career turned largely to television after the release of this movie) is exactly the kind of title I’m grateful to Peary for including in his book, given that I’d never in a million years know to seek it out otherwise. The second in an intended trilogy about the lives of teenagers in Boston (after 1979’s Billy in the Lowlands, starring Tomaszewski as the same character), it tells the tale of a fateful night in the lives of a group of black and white teens in a low-income Boston neighborhood, and unfolds from there in a refreshingly uncontrived fashion. The remainder of the loosely structured storyline primarily follows the central protagonist (Harrington) as she grapples with the decision she and her boyfriend have made, and the challenging consequences it unleashes.

The performances throughout (by a largely little-known cast) are convincingly natural — we really believe in these characters and the lives they lead. The biggest name in the bunch is character actor Lance Henriksen, whose face you’ll likely recognize (he’s appeared in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Prince of the City, The Right Stuff, and The Terminator, to name just a few Peary titles); his role here as the trucker boyfriend of Harrington’s mother’s (Pamela Payton-Wright) rings true all the way. In an obscure bit of trivia, this film is primarily “remembered” today (if at all) for “featuring” eight-year-old Ben Affleck in his movie debut. When I read this, I went back to try to find him, and spent a good 10 minutes or so scrolling back and forth between various scenes, without much luck. Finally, I found the following brief shot of him sitting on the sofa with his older sister:

So, for any curious fans, there you go.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An authentic look at race relations and life in Boston in the early ’80s
  • Fine performances by a cast of little-known actors

  • Lance Henriksen as Jimmy
  • Confident direction by Jan Egleson

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly worth a look if you happen to locate a copy. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Dark End of the Street, The (1981)

  1. First viewing – not must-see.

    I’m a lot less taken with this film (originally made for educational channel WGBH in Boston and, apparently, not seen much elsewhere). It does have a small point to make about race and racial tension, but that point is surrounded by a lot of needless drama created for the sake of drama.

    It’s not all that well-acted. I felt that most of the cast *looks* right but rarely acts all that believably. But, in a way, it’s not their fault – the script is not the tightest and is often just sloppy.

    Near the last 5 minutes, there is a scene between Harrington and Payton-Wright (a good New York stage actress) which actually *works*. It plays so well, in fact, that it shows up how amateurish the rest of the film is.

    It’s a very, very slow-moving film with little sense of pacing and much of the direction is limp. Seems a missed opportunity for a better film.

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