The Big Heat (1953)

A hard cop and a soft dame.

Tough cop Dave Bannion takes on a politically powerful crime syndicate.

Fritz Lang deals nicely in obsession and corruption.
Detective Dave Bannion is investigating the suicide of corrupt cop Tom Duncan. As he gets deeper, and his colleagues get nervous, his wife is inadvertently killed by a car bomb that was meant for him, he turns from mannered family man into a vengeful obsessive, the heat is most definitely coming down on those responsible.
Writer Sydney Boehm took a "Saturday Evening Post" serial (written by William McGiven), and crafted a tight, biting and incredibly bleak script. Handed it into director Fritz Lang's hands, who then cloaked it (along with Charles Lang's perfectly apt photography) with dripping noir nastiness. Playing out as a tale of murder, revenge and pure hatred, The Big Heat holds up now as one of the best of the dialogue driven noir pieces of the 50s.
Lang isn't concerned with showing the violence exactly, more like the reaction of our protagonists to the violence in the piece, this makes for a sort of ethereal viewing, with the sets themselves becoming integral to our characters personalities. The cast are excellent, Glenn Ford as Bannion was never better than he is here, but even he is playing second fiddle to the fabulous Gloria Grahame as Debby Marsh, a Moll who makes a decision that has very far reaching consequences. It begs the question as to why Grahame never had a far better career, for here she is one of film noir's best (anti?) heroines. Rounding out a trio of great performances are Lee Marvin as the vile and brutal Vince Stone - Marvin of course would go on from here and deliver a ream of brilliant gruff hard bastard performances. A potent, gripping and superb piece of film noir. 9/10

Columbia Pictures by Fritz Lang, Sydney Boehm, William P. McGivern.
Stars: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby.

Genres: Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller

Keywords: suicide homicide gangster police car bomb cop revenge noir death wrecking yard patrol car crime syndicate mob


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