"In spite of the low profile it got at its initial release in the 50's, in spite of the modest budget and production value, THE BIG HEAT, with his already highly acclaimed M, is Fritz Lang's greatest film, and one of the highest achievement of cinema. The stunning opening sequence, depicting a police officer's suicide and its aftermath, is a great example of efficiency cinematic narrative, so are the 85 minutes that follow. Lang fills this film with powerful shots and speedy editing, never afraid to show heightened violence when the story needs to. Many heated action sequences are handled with impressive masterly. Unlike in the movies in which Lang used famous Hollywood star (and the majority of them could not cope with the severeness of his direction), Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame show powerful, convincing performances fused with emotion. Also featured are Lee Marvin and Janet Nolan, as the "bad guys" and are equally great. But what makes THE BIG HEAT such a great film is the fact that it is a profoundly humanist and moral film. As many of Lang's American films does, THE BIG HEAT depicts the corruption of the modern society. In fact, he never been as good as this in showing the system of how our society functions: a newspaper headline, or even a telephone call may be more powerful than guns and bullets, punches and tortures. The sophisticated syndicate functions not with violence, but with the information of violence. At the same time, Lang chose the protagonist of the film to be a truly good human being, not a perfect super hero, but a cop who is convinced to do an honest job, and ready to fight for this cause in spite of all the corruptions that surround him. At one point of the story, he is almost convinced that he is set alone against the entire world which is corrupted. He comes very close to be obsessed by hatred towards other men. But then he finds out that he can believe in people, that in spite of the harsh reality of the world which obliges them to lie, to play D-and-D, to be corrupted to save their own neck and wealthy life, in most people there are also a desire to be a good human being. THE BIG HEAT marks the almost only occasion that Lang, the master of pessimistic visions of 20th century, is himself not at all a pessimist, but a believer in human kind."
Corruption and Its Cure Leave a Bloody Trail.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 03/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Big Heat" is a good-cop-vs-city-corruption story based on a serial by William P. McGivern that ran in the "Saturday Evening Post". Police Sergeant David Bannion (Glenn Ford) becomes suspicious while investigating the suicide of a police officer when the dead man's girlfriend is murdered shortly after she speaks to him. But Bannion is ordered to lay off the dead cop's sinister widow, Bertha Duncan (Jeanette Nolan), and to leave the murder case to another jurisdiction. He pursues the case anyway, confronting a prominent businessman named Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby) who built his fortune on crime and to whom all roads of corruption in this town lead. Lagana's violent reprisal further provokes Bannion into an obsessive campaign to bring down the entire corrupt network of criminals, politicians, and complicitous cops.
Glenn Ford and director Fritz Lang give us a complicated picture of David Bannion, a man who is kind and devoted to his family, but whose obsessive pursuit of justice leaves a trail of death and destruction. The crusading cop who risks his life to combat the violence and corruption that permeate his town is, at the same time, generally unconcerned with the human cost of his pique. Bannion's single-mindedness is understandable considering his circumstances, but this good guy with admirable ambitions has the flaws of a self-righteous crusader. And that's a lot more interesting than a man who's all good.
Gloria Grahame gives a memorable performance as Debby Marsh, the girlfriend of one of Lagana's goons. She is the antithesis of the smart, literate Laurel Gray, whom Grahame portrayed in "In a Lonely Place". Debby is an unsophisticated-but-savvy, happy-go-lucky woman who tries to enjoy life in spite of depending on sadistic gangsters for her livelihood. And she suffers for being caught between the conflicting obsessions of two men: her boyfriend Vince and David Bannion. Debby's childlike voice and chin-up demeanor in the midst of moral chaos really make an impression.
The DVD (The Columbia/ Tristar 2001 release): Bonus features are "Vintage Advertising", which is a slideshow of some posters for the film, and Theatrical Trailers for "The Big Heat", "The Lady from Shanghai", and "Suddenly, Last Summer". Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Dubbing is available in French."
Fritz Lang 'Essesntial' Noir Showcases Actresses...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 09/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Big Heat", Fritz Lang's concise, hard-hitting Noir drama, both defines the genre in it's 'mature' form (with the obligatory black and white, high contrast photography, a short running time, a hero, portrayed by Glenn Ford, who teeters between justice and vengeance, and villains, particularly Lee Marvin, every bit as shaded and complex as Ford), and tosses in, almost casually, a fascinating subtext, that the three central female characters of the film are, in fact, as essential as their male counterparts, and even more interesting! Portrayed by Jocelyn Brando (Marlon's older sister), Jeanette Nolan, and the fabulous Gloria Grahame, they are not only pivital to the plot, but actually become the characters you're most likely to leave the film talking about.
Beginning with the suicide of a cop 'on the take', who leaves a letter exposing the mob's connections with the police and local government, the film first introduces Nolan, as a less-than-grieving widow, who steals the letter, and uses it as leverage to enjoy 'the good life'. An underrated actress, usually cast in sweet-natured supporting 'grandmotherly' roles, Nolan here gets to cut loose, blackmailing the mob while tossing false 'leads' to cop Ford, and adjusting her 'image' to suit whatever situation she faces. Her portrayal, alone, would make this an extraordinary film!
Ford, the dedicated, honest homicide detective, has a history of ruffling official feathers to find the truth, and much of his strength comes from the love and support of wife Brando. Not your 'traditional' 50s wife, she 'samples' his drinks and food, hints at her satisfying sex life (remarkable, in itself!), and casually smokes while preparing dinner, sweetly bantering with her husband. In the smallest of the central female roles, it is easy to 'lose' her, between the flashier performances of Nolan and Grahame, but, in fact, she is the catalyst of the plot, whose untimely demise would set the chain of events in motion.
Then there is Gloria Grahame, the 'party girl' mistress of enforcer Lee Marvin...wisecracking, and blissfully ignorant of the risks she takes in verbally 'jabbing' her boyfriend's relationship to mob boss Alexander Scourby, she grabs the screen, each scene she's in, and makes Marvin's performance, as a genial yet psychopathic sadist, even better. When she warms up to Ford, she is rewarded with a pot of scalding coffee in the face, disfiguring her, and providing the hook to blow things wide-open...
Three powerhouse performances, by three terrific actresses!
Fritz Lang's American film work was always remarkable, and "The Big Heat" showcased him at the top of his form.
The film is, deservedly, a classic!
Very Different Noir, Brutal and Uncompromising!
Bertin Ramirez | San Ysidro, California United States | 07/12/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Basically a tough and compelling police melodrama. Lang adds tension and some scenes have become little gems, but he doesn't capture the atmosphere and essence of 'Noir'. The plot about corruption and greed is very tame by today's standards and time has taken away much of the impact. This will always be remembered as the film where Lee Marvin threw boiling coffee on Gloria Graheme's face. Glenn Ford gives his best performance as the tough-as-nails Bannion. Lee Marvin is also superb as the sadistic Vince. But Gloria Graheme is the one who gives the most memorable performance as Vince's moll who gets horribly disfigured and ultimately saves the day but with tragic conclusions. The final shoot-out sequence is memorable and Graheme's last speech is touching. Works better as a police drama than a definitive 'noir'. From a scale of 1-10 I give this film a 7!"
A wonderful film noir
Ryan Henderson | Charlottesville, VA | 01/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A great Fritz Lang movie exploring the depths of big time corruption. Glenn Ford does a wonderful job, depicting a police officer who will stop at nothing to bring down mob boss Lagana and his henchmen. The scene when Gloria Grahame is burned by coffee thrown at her face is an all-time great. Glenn Ford should have been nominated for an Oscar, and I will go as far as saying he should have won one as well."