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The Big Heat (1953)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller  |  14 October 1953 (USA)
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Reviews: 132 user | 84 critic

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



(screenplay), (Saturday Evening Post serial)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alexander Scourby ...
Peter Whitney ...
Robert Burton ...
Howard Wendell ...
George Rose
Michael Granger ...
Dorothy Green ...


Dave Bannion is an upright cop on the trail of a vicious gang he suspects holds power over the police force. Bannion is tipped off after a colleague's suicide and his fellow officers' suspicious silence lead him to believe that they are on the gangsters' payroll. When a bomb meant for him kills his wife instead, Bannion becomes a furious force of vengeance and justice, aided along the way by the gangster's spurned girlfriend Debbie. As Bannion and Debbie fall further and further into the Gangland's insidious and brutal trap, they must use any means necessary (including murder) to get to the truth. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Somebody's going to pay ...because he forgot to kill me... See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 October 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Heißes Eisen  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Columbia wanted to borrow Marilyn Monroe from 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Debby Marsh, but Fox's asking price was too high. Gloria Grahame was cast instead. See more »


When Dave Bannion brings Debbie some soup in their hotel and sits down with her, a double shadow of the boom microphone drops down onto the wall above them and waggles a bit. See more »


Dave Bannion: It doesn't matter to you that Slim might have been mixed up in a murder?
Mr. Atkins: Sure it matters, but what can I do about it? I don't know anything.
Dave Bannion: You're a liar.
Mr. Atkins: You can't insult me, mister. I said I don't know anything about it, and that's how it stands.
Dave Bannion: You know, I've been meetin' your kind every day for ten years... scared rabbits that never see anything. You wouldn't stick out your big, fat neck for anybody, would you?
Mr. Atkins: That's the truth, but it's my big, fat neck. So now, if you're through talkin'...
See more »


Referenced in The Girl on the Late, Late Show (1974) See more »


Put the Blame on Mame
by Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts
Heard instrumentally during one of the scenes at The Retreat
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

big steaks, big spuds, big heat
28 May 2002 | by (British Columbia) – See all my reviews

This punchy little noir moves along at brisk clip. Glenn Ford simmers the whole time like a boiling kettle about to blow . This man has no pleasures that are obvious except his Westinghouse wife and child. Lee Marvin barely maintains control for much of the film. He is a catelogue of evil and greedy excess. Gloria Grahame is marvelous, witty, beautiful, bitter beyond hope. There is no redemption to be had for most of the characters in this sordid little universe. Conspiracy theorists of the 21st century will look back at the kind of simple-minded corrupt worldview espoused by Lang in this and other films and lament its loss. In THE BIG HEAT, evil and rot have names and faces and with enough fortitude, and the willingness to lose everything, they can be conquered. At least for a day. We know today that the whole infrastructure of power is poisoned beyond repair. The fifties held out a modicum of hope. Brief, fleeting hope. This is a violent film. Others have commented that much of the horror is committed off screen. But you can easily imagine it. Lang doesn't pull many punches here. The treadmill of denouement speeds up rapidly in the last few sections of the film. After viewing a film like THE BIG HEAT, I often want to wander down some dark street and find a corner diner, something like the one portrayed in Hoppers's NIGHTHAWKS, and have a cup of java, listen to some Brubeck on the jukebox, and wait for someone to come in from the chilly street . But the diners in my neighborhood are either in the middle of the block or close early because of street crime. So I stay home, have a cup of tea, and dream noirish thoughts half asleep on my couch. This is a fine entry into the film noir lexicon.

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