Written by / 5/07/2016 / No comments / , , ,

GLENN FORD, LEE MARVIN & GLORIA GRAHME IN THE BIG HEAT

A young and lethal Lee Marvin puts THE BIG HEAT on a dame but the title refers to who's not shown, and after him...
The camera glides around, centers not only on the actor but adjusts, somehow, like a prowler honing in on its prey, to his/her dialogue, curves around slightly again till the next person speaks and we cut to another angle, moving the story and proving that Film Noir directors can roll without the character partaking in any particular physical action: just, like in stories centering on cops, a whole lot of questions (and unlike Gumshoe Private Eyes, adhering to strict rules), most of them going nowhere and for very little pay...

Glenn Ford YEAR: 1953
Orson Welles said if "they" notice the camera moving, you've failed as a director, but that's NOT for the rabid fans watching, then re-watching, again and again, studying how every old movie grooves, and THE BIG HEAT, with a director from the German Expressionist period, Fritz Lang, that influenced the Americans in the first place, is doing his job splendidly...

It doesn't hurt having Glenn Ford in the lead, an actor so natural and disarming it's like he isn't even there sometimes. Not a pulp magazine superhero-type of muscular crime fighter but a suited (gentlemanly handsome) detective with, as mentioned before and many times throughout the film, a meager paycheck, living in a house so small the kitchen, where much of the dialogue between he and wife Jocelyn (sister of Marlon) Brando is set, both connecting like they've known each other forever, and then some, takes up half the space. Meanwhile, on the beat, Ford's Detective Sgt. Dave Bannon, with a low, mumbling voice, hat brim downturned towards shuffling black shoes, snooping around for some "truth" concerning a cop's "suicide" from a woman who turned up just as dead, now has his own threats coming from the real money-makers, and Bannon, angrier than ever, still keeps an even-keeled tone. That's what he's paid so little for, after all...

Twilight Time Cover with the Coffee that scalds her mug
The downside of being a cop has never been so up front and audibly personal than in THE BIG HEAT, a smooth, unpretentious Film Noir that takes its time, puts the Devil in the details and strings our troubled hero along for a dark, shady ride. Meanwhile, the "good times" take place in swanky mansions where the money's been made and paid, and backroom card games, where the extra dough's played, especially by chief goon/heavy, a young Lee Marvin, not completely in charge but the best heavies never are, are they? And on the other side of the bad coin are the parties, where rich folk shuffle to an endless big band jazz or, in smaller rooms, a sexy mamba beat... Yet when our hero, who had cut corners before and now may just slice through the middle, loses someone important from a big horrendous BANG, the second half sustains from question and answers into a slightly deeper, darker, vengeful journey while still traipsing along what seems a nowhere, clue-gathering road... the only downtime occurs when we lose sight of the main good and bad guy, distracted within mink coat arguments and melodramatic diatribes from the super-rich head honcho and his moaning trophy dame. Yet, all the while, on the mainline, Marvin's Vince Stone and his misuse of power (misused to begin with), especially on Gloria Grahame in the form of scalding hot coffee, makes what's supposed to be a cautious and quiet millionaire's life, louder and louder till the man, our man, stealthily moves in, making for a climax between three, then two, with no more questions, or distractions. A basic, scathing glimpse into the gilded cage of the human zoo.

RATING: ****
TRIVIA: Long ago there were BLOODY BAGFULS written on Cult Film Freak, a collection of summary-sized reviews and click this link for many of the Noir nature including THE BIG HEAT, which got much bigger, better treatment here, especially following yet another purchase from Twilight Time Movies, wherein each Blu Ray is limited to 3000 copies. Move over, Criterion, we've found a brand new addiction!
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