I swear, if this had a decent title it would be much more well known, and appreciated. As it is, this is an excellent noir, released near the end of the "cycle," noted for great acting, photog (&lighting), direction and music. The story is no great shakes, but in noir the atmosphere is everything, ne c'est pas?
This is a 1955 American film noir directed by Joseph H. Lewis.
Supposedly standing alongside Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity", Edgar G. Ulmer's "Detour", and Fritz Lang's "The Big Heat" as the truly great film noir, however, this film appears ill-contrived with a roundabout storyline for the sake of complexity.
Although the DVD cover says that this flick is an unrelenting and tormented catalogue of savage violence, grotesquely black irony and dangelously obsessed sexuality, it is clearly overstated.
The film doesn't live up to the description.
This 1955, b&w, crime-drama had both its good points, as well as its not-so-good points.
Its best point, by far, was its overall look which consisted of many scenes shot in shadowy, partially-lit spaces. This welcome effect often gave the story a more menacing feel to it, beyond that which was generally conveyed by the actions of the characters.
As well as The Big Combo having its fair share of impressive camera-work to its credit, it also contained plenty of unintentional humour in a story that clearly took itself way too seriously for its own good.
But, on the other hand - What almost ruined this picture for me was the hideously annoying performance of actress Jean Wallace who played the clueless, blond, gangster's moll, Susan Lowell. Believe me, this woman's portrayal really grated on my nerves, big-time.
Anyway - For the most part, The Big Combo was "OK" entertainment, as far as 1950's crime-dramas go.
Favourite movie quote - "You're a beautiful girl, Rita... But stupid."
This bare-knuckles, yet decidedly run-of-the-mill, 1955, crime-drama earned itself some extra points from me for these following 3 things -
(1) The opening scene where character Susan Lowell (in high heels, no less) is frantically running for her very life away from 2 toughs down a smoky, shadow-drenched corridor.
(2) The priceless scene where hottie, burlesque queen, Rita, angrily slaps one of Brown's nelly henchmen across the face with her rhinestone-encrusted handbag.
(3) And, last, but not least - Cinematographer, John Alton's first-rate camera-work, which, at times, was about the only thing that actually held my interest in this, otherwise, unintentionally laughable tale about (stud-muffin) Detective Diamond's almost neurotically obsessive crusade to bring down sadistic, self-satisfied gangster, Mr. Brown, to his knees.
*Note* - The Big Combo was directed by Joseph Lewis, who, in 1950, had directed Gun Crazy.
For those who like a double shot of noir with an extra side of sadistic hoodlums, two-fisted cops, and the hapless dames who love them both! Coldhearted crime boss “Mr. Brown” (Richard Conte, intensely unlikeable) practically runs the city and police lieutenant Leonard Diamond (a chiseled Cornel Wilde) is determined to put him away for good even if he has to bankrupt his department’s budget to do so. It doesn’t help matters that Diamond is also in love with Brown’s bleach-blonde moll Susan (breathless bombshell Jean Wallace) a woman who is just beginning to realize what she threw away when she agreed to become a gangster’s mistress. Unfortunately Brown is very good at destroying incriminating evidence (or people) and Diamond’s efforts to pin an old murder on him leads both men down a very dark and treacherous path of double-crosses and dirty dealings… Shot in a perpetual twilight of fogbound streets and cheap dives, Joseph Lewis’ B&W evocation of a city seething with angst and corruption is sure to make genre fans squeal with delight. The dialogue is appropriately corny (“I’m going to break him so fast he won’t have time to change his pants”) and the plot is knotty enough to offer up a few surprises before its inevitable conclusion. Helene Stanton does a good job as Rita, Diamond’s world-weary stripper girlfriend (of course) but the biggest shock is Earl Holliman and Lee Van Cleef as a pair of gay hitmen—believe me, subtle hints abound!
This is the tale of a crusading cop against organized crime and it stars two intense performances by Cornel Wilde as the police detective and the Richard Conte as the mob leader. The intensity of these two leads is what makes this one of the best film noirs (surely within the top 15 of film noirs, and this is the first time, thanks to Olive and UCLA that it has been on DVD restored to its normal 1.78 aspect ratio). The story has similarities to The Big Heat, one of the top ten film noirs starring Glenn Ford as the crusading cop against a crusading cop.
One of the great overlooked noirs from Joseph Lewis & featuring John Alton's great black & white cinematography.
When you see the world's meanest gangster tortures a captive police officer, by shouting into a hearing aid strapped to his head, you'll know you've left our world far behind. The amazing Jean Wallace is the gangster's hoity-toity girlfriend: "she came for the glamour, she stayed for the tossed salad!" Hey, it was 1955, you couldn't get your salad tossed just anywhere.
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