Thursday, October 6, 2011
THE BIG HEAT
"I could always go through life sideways."
A violent series of events are set in play with the suicide of a cop, Duncan, who was on the take and knew where the bodies were buried. Det. Sergeant Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) wants to do a full investigation into the activities of criminal boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby) but even his boss, Lt. Wilks (Willis Bouchey), wants to tread easy, and the people that Lagana has in his pocket go all the way to the top. But then Lagana pushes Bannion too far and a tragedy ensues... Look out! Others caught up in Bannion's fury include Lagana's chief gunsel, Vince (Lee Marvin); Vince's girl, Debbie (Gloria Grahame); the dead man's widow, Bertha Duncan (Jeanette Nolan); another gunsel named Larry (Adam Williams); a pretty bar girl named Lucy (Dorothy Green); and another named Doris (Carolyn Jones); as well as Bannion's loving and lovely wife, Katie (Jocelyn Brando). The cast is terrific in this outstanding example of hard-boiled film noir, with Ford giving one of his most memorable performances, Scourby offering sophisticated villainy, Marvin and Williams scoring as young sociopaths, and Grahame dishing out another superlative portrayal as a gal who has a date with a really hot cup of coffee. Nolan and the others named are also in top form, and Lang's direction keeps things percolating and boiling over. Sure, you could quibble about some things [the burns caused by scalding coffee for one thing], but this is top notch Hollywood melodrama for sure.
Verdict: Taut, exciting, and altogether terrific. ***1/2.