"with you dead, the big heat follows" The Big Heat (1953)

Fritz Lang's The Big Heat is the picture perfect noir. It's moody, dark, ridden with dames and soaked in booze. The film's protagonist is homicide detective Dave Bannion played strongly by Glenn ford. The story begins with Bannion investigating a police suicide only he's not completely convinced it is a suicide. That's all you really need to know.
The script alone makes this film a classic but in Fritz Langs hands it becomes truly special. The characters are all boldy drawn and the divison between the good guys and the bad guys is palpable in every scene.
I was surprised with how far this film went in terms of violence. Of course most of it happens off camera with a scream or a bang but a lot of good people go through hell in this film.
All the performances are stellar across the board with a young Lee Marvin's Vince Stone and Gloria Grahame's Debby Marsh standing out. It's not as gritty as say Kiss Me Deadly but not such a stroll in the park as The Maltese Falcon, The Big Heat exists in a space between the two making it a noir any one can sink their teeth into. Highly recommended.


Dropkick said...

just make sure you don't read the back of case when you rent this one because the synopsis ruins the film.

La Sporgenza said...

You're on a Noir tear here Kris. Interesting film but oddly, my least favourite of Lang's main noir canon. Woman in the Window, Ministry of Fear and Scarlet Street remain my picks for his best noir works. I think The Big Heat might have been a little too much of an A-picture for my liking. Scarlet Street hands down his quintessential treatment of the genre. A sort of sister-movie to Woman in the Window with Edward G and Joan Bennet in both. Great double-bill - Window first followed by Scarlet.

the coelacanth said...

i watched scarlet street a couple years ago on your rec scott and loved it. haven't seen woman in the window. maybe next winter...

Dropkick said...

It was very A-picture but i think that's why i got a kick out of it. It's shot and played like a straight A-picture but the scolding woman's faces with coffee? Blowing up people's wives? it may be because i'm not educated fully yet but this was my first run in with noir violence that affected me on a personal level. In the last 20 minutes when Glen Ford gets his was so exciting to me, i had goosebumps the whole time.

i think this would be a great entry level noir for anyone. It's not unique enough to stand out except for Lee Marvin.
Kiss Me Deadly and Lady From Shanghai are still tied for best noir i've ever seen.