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83 out of 97 people found the following review useful:

Taut, gripping, vintage cop thriller

Author: Lupercali from Tasmania
22 June 2004

It's doubtful that even Dirty Harry in his most menacing moments could match the smouldering rage that Glenn Ford brings to the screen in this excellent 1953 Fritz Lang flick. From a modern POV there is nothing unfamiliar here, except maybe the dated hardboiled lingo. The maverick cop, the revenge theme, the underworld characters and heroines. It's just that whereas a modern director would make this into a predictable two hour yawn-fest with slow-motion car accidents and ten minute shootouts with shoulder-launched missiles, Lang's movie clocks in at under 90 minutes, and there isn't an ounce of fat on it. It's lean, fast-moving and engrossing. Not a single camera shot is wasted or unnecessary. The script crackles, the cast is uniformly excellent, and Ford and Lee Marvin in particular are unforgettably intense. Ford, just when he's about to go way over the top, reins himself in, adding to the aura of barely suppressed violence in his character.

The movie can also lurch from plot exposition to sudden, economical and unexpected explosions of violence which can still shock today and must have been extremely confronting fifty years ago. And from there it can become suddenly, unexpectedly sensitive and moving.

Nothing is wasted in this movie. Everything is nailed down just right. It's not that they don't make them like this any more; it's more that they've been making them like this ever since, and generally to lesser and lesser effect.

A strong 8 out of 10.

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52 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Corruption in higher places

Author: jotix100 from New York
12 January 2006

Fritz Lang, a man who knew the business like no other, is seen at the top of his craft with this interesting film noir that pays off in unexpected ways. Mr. Lang was a man that believed in total control and who wanted to get the best out of everyone in all his films. "The Big Heat" is one of those rare films in which all the elements come together with surprising results.

Corruption in higher places is the basis of the story. A good police detective who cares enough to keep on probing into the suicide of one of his comrades, is what brings Dave Bannion, not only to the attention of the higher ups in the police department, but to Lagano and the mobsters that work for this evil man. Tragedy finds a way into Dave's home that makes him even more resolved into seeking justice and unmasking the mobsters found along the way that have a grip on the police department.

The casting of "The High Heat" is what makes this film different from the rest of the films of the genre. Glenn Ford made an excellent appearance in the film. He gives one of the best performances of his career. But of course, the film belongs to Gloria Grahame, the bad girl in most of the films of this genre. What a joy it's to watch her! Her Debby Marsh is one of the best roles she portrayed for the movies. Surprisingly, Ms. Grahame and Mr. Ford show a lot of chemistry in their scenes together.

The others in the film do good work under Mr. Lang's direction. A young Lee Marvin is perfectly creepy as Vince Stone, a man who gets what's coming to him at the end in a memorable sequence playing against Ms. Grahame. Jeannette Nolan makes a valuable contribution as the bad widow of the man that commits suicide. Alexander Scourby, as Lagana has some good moments. Joselyn Brando plays Dave's wife. Also, in a small part we see Carolyn Jones.

"The Big Heat" demonstrates why Fritz Lang was one of the best influences in the American cinema.

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54 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

big steaks, big spuds, big heat

Author: bengleson from British Columbia
28 May 2002

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 catalogue 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 neighbourhood 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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56 out of 76 people found the following review useful:

One Of The Fastest-Movie Film Noirs

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
26 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Intense characters, led by Glenn Ford's portrayal of "Det. Sgt. Dave Bannion," make this one of the better film noirs of the period, at least one of the ones I enjoyed the most.

Ford is a believably 100 percent honest and tough cop who is unrelenting in getting his wife's killer. (His wife is killed early on in a car bomb.) Ford takes the law into his own hands, which really contradicts what he stands for, and is not least bit apologetic for his actions, either. Make no mistake: this is a pure "revenge" film.

Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Jocelyn Brando, Alexader Scourby, Jeanette Noland and Carolyn Jones complete the cast of "name" actors of the period. No surprise that Marvin plays the lead villain. Grahame almost steals the show as Marvin's girl who gets scalded when the latter throws hot coffee in her face - one of the more shocking scenes in film noir history. She then, understandably, switches allegiances.

It was kind of fun to see Marvin at such a young age. This was my first look at Scourby. Pro football fans know his distinctive voice well, as he became the voice of the NFL Films for many years.

One of the attractions of this story is the pace: it is fast-moving, and it's not too dated either, despite being over 40 years old. This is highly recommended for crime buffs of any era.

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52 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Brutal & Violent

Author: marquis de cinema from Boston, MA
19 March 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Big Heat(1953) focuses on the conflict between honest cop and corruption that is around him. The cop, Dave Bannion is someone who believes in law and order and this conflicts with the activities of the people he's working for because they are dishonest. He pays the price for his fight against the corrupt system with the almost total loss of his family. At first he's just one man who is forced to take on the system on his own. In this film Dave Bannion is someone who stands fast against the corruption around him that is squeezing him.

The theme of revenge is an important element of The Big Heat(1953). In fact, its the biggest motif in the film history of Fritz Lang as he dealt with the emotional and destructive forces of one person's vengeance. Fritz Lang did not believe in the idea of revenge as he thought of it as negative and pointless. Its interesting to note how Dave Bannion played by Glenn Ford goes from being quiet and nice to angry and cold. The revenge motif had previously appeared in other Lang films like Die Nibelungen(1924), M(1931), Fury(1936), Return of Frank James(1940), & Rancho Notorious(1952).

Lee Marvin made one of his most famous roles with this film. His performance gives an early sign that he was on his way to stardom. His performance as Vince Stone is absolutely awesome. This role would set up later roles in films like The Killers(1964), Point Blank(1967), and Prime Cut(1971). Lee Marvin in The Big Heat(1953) shows why he is one of the best Hollywood tough guys from his era.

The Big Heat(1953) was released during the late period of Film Noir. Film Noir was on its dying legs during this time but was still coming up with some gems. Many of this late Noir pictures are characterized by their increasing depiction of violent behavior and events. Some of the best noirs to come out of this period are Born to Kill(1948), White Heat(1949), The Asphalt Jungle(1950), Desperate Hours(1952), The Big Heat(1953), Kiss Me Deadly(1954), The Killing(1955), and Touch of Evil(1958). The Big Heat continued the great tradition of the genre with its excellent storytelling.

The car bombing sequence in my opinion my have inspired a similar sequence in The Godfather(1972). In both scenes, the bomb kills the wife of the husband instead of the husband. Also, the scene in The Godfather(1972) is done with the same unexpectencey and shock. The difference is that Dave Bannion regains his humanity while Michael Corleone stays cold blooded and ruthless. The Big Heat(1953) would have a major influence on Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather(1972).

The Big Heat is unusually violent for the year of 1953. The violence in the film must have shocked audiences then because most films in the early 50s were light and harmless. The intensity of the violent scenes must have really disturbed audiences and critics alike. The coffee throwing scene is one of the most vicious acts of violence in a film from the 1950s. The violence is shocking even though they are mostly implicit.

The Big Heat features the death of all the main actresses of the film. This implies that the world in the film is very brutal and vicious towards women. The film deals with how the loss of a woman can have a negative effect on a male world. The Big Heat is one of the few movies that I've seen where all the main female characters are killed off. The deaths of Debbie and Katie are very sad and tearjearking.

The acting in the motion picture is just brilliant to watch. Glenn Ford gives a balance performance as the idealistic cop, Dave Bannion. Gloria Grahame as Debby Marsh portrays both toughness and vurnability as the girlfriend of Vince Stone. Jeanette Nolan is just cold and cleaver as the crooked Bertha Duncan. Alexander Scourby is terrific as the mob boss and politican Mike Lagana.

There is a great film reference to the classic flick, Gilda(1946). The car bomb scene is refered to at the end of the Scorsese pic, Mean Streets(1973). The Big Heat(1953) is an early precusor to revenge driven films such as Point Blank(1967), Get Carter(1970), and The Limey(1999). The Big Heat(1953) also sets the stage for the Dirty Harry pictures as well as the films of Charles Bronson. The Big Heat is wonderfully executed by director, Fritz Lang.

The structure of the film is tense and mesmorizing to follow. Has some stark camera work and tight editing. The final twenty moments are suspenseful. The Big Heat is my favorite of all the films by Fritz Lang. The Big Heat(1953) is a great movie that one cannot take their eyes off.

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30 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

nice attention to detail

Author: RanchoTuVu from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
24 March 2005

A violent story about a detective working in a corrupt department who investigates the apparent suicide of a fellow officer. Worth seeing for Glenn Ford's prototypical performance and Gloria Grahme's show stealing portrayal of a boozing moll with a conscience. With facial disfigurement and cigarette burns it took violence up a notch from the standard gun play of the past, making it grimmer and more realistic, and giving the story more punch. Grahme's tough and tender role stands out and gives the film a tragic element, while certain of its portrayals of greed and corruption (namely the dead officer's wife) stand out for their attention to detail. In the end, it IS the details that give this formulaic story its clout, and we can thank director Fritz Lang for that.

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32 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

An excellent film noir crime classic.

Author: Righty-Sock ( from Mexico
7 October 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

During the 1950's a new wave of hoodlum pictures filled the screens: 'The Asphalt Jungle,' 'Rogue Cop,' 'Party Girl,' 'The Desperate Hours,' and 'The Big Heat', to name but five...

Most gangster-movie fans remember that a girl got hot coffee thrown in her face in some film, but how many remember the film, the girl, and the thrower?

Gloria Grahame is a green-eyed blonde, with unusual lips, tiny voice, and sulky appearance... She is a gangster's moll dressed in silk and satin... Her presence alone can incite men to criminal behavior... She is sensual, spiteful, uncontrolled, and lethal... Her freezing looks are as memorable as her steamy actions... She is both tough and vulnerable, a combination not rare but here at its most winning...

Lee Marvin (later to become famous as the toughest of all screen villains) is sadistic, cold-blooded mobster, a very bad person...

Glenn Ford is angry and icy, with quiet authority and sincerity... He made what is almost certainly his best film... He is fine as the honest homicide cop who resigned from the police force to discover who murdered his wife... He bust a crime-ring with manic determination, gradually becoming as cruel and ruthless as they are...

Ford is ordered repeatedly by his lieutenant to stop interfering, but,obsessed with vengeance, walks out of the police department and sets out to get Marvin and Scourby unrestrained by the delicacies of police technique and the influence brought to bear on his superior...

The film's tensions are strongly intensified by :

- Dorothy Green, the 'B-girl' who tells Bannion that she was Tom Duncan's girlfriend and that the policeman had no reason to kill himself...

- Jeannette Nolan, the grieving widow who is "on the take" for years, and isn't silenced...

- Jocelyn Brando, the cozy martyred young wife who is brutally blown up in a car by a violent explosion intended for her husband... (An interesting foreshadowing of 'The Godfather.')

- Alexander Scourby (an interesting foreshadowing of "The Godfather"), the suave chief villain and loving family man who at the same time ran a criminal empire with business efficiency...

- Willis Bouchey, a corrupted Lieutenant who orders Bannion to lay off the case...

- Howard Wendell, the Police Commissioner whom Bannion advises to find out who planted the dynamite in his car...

- Robert Burton, the detective who promises to help his companion, but off the record...

- Peter Whitney, the retreat's bartender who assumes a "don't ask" policy...

- Adams Williams, the mob who threats the obsessive detective to stay out of the case...

- Dan Seymour, the very cool and uncooperative 'scared rabbit.'

- Edith Evanson, the crippled secretary who offers the information Atkins withheld...

- John Crawford, Bannion's brother-in-law who makes a call at exactly 9:30 P.M. and "ask for Larry."

Considered at the time to reach a new low in violence, this excellent film noir crime classic also struck a new note of realism in crime films (gambling, conspiracy, extortion, murder...) and produced one of Glenn Ford's most typical performances...

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31 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

The king of the film noir hill, bar none...

Author: keihan (
27 June 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My interest in film noir goes all the way back to "The Maltese Falcon" and, in the last few years, I've managed to see quite a few good ones. But none of them come even close to what I saw this very day with "The Big Heat". Perhaps more than any other film noir I've seen to date, this one sums up it's genre almost completely.

I'm not the slightest bit suprised why such a story appealed to the film's director, the legendary Fritz Lang (whose earlier films, particularly "M", were instrumental in the creation of the film noir genre). An escapee from Nazi Germany, he had a special affinity for the kind of atmosphere portrayed here. When the basic ground rules are look the other way, pretend you didn't see it, you don't know anything we don't want you to, is there that much difference between the Third Reich and the corrupt city government portrayed here?

Sgt. Banion (played with low-key, but believable calm by Glenn Ford) pays a heavy price for bucking the cowardice of those around him. His wife is killed in a car bomb. He's suspended from duty. He loses yet another friend to Vince Stone (perhaps Lee Marvin's best role as a villain ever). But when push comes to shove, he eventually makes the right decision. Nothing about the way the plot moves is forced or unrealistic (though being blown in a car or shot in the head is a lot messier than portrayed here). This is not a film to be forgotten nor to be missed.

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19 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

"The Lid's Off The Garbage Can"

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
27 April 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In The Big Heat, Fritz Lang by casting Glenn Ford against type, probably directed Ford to his greatest screen performance and one of the best noir films ever done.

Ford is a homicide cop in an unnamed big mid-western city which is in the grip of systemic corruption from organized crime. Remember The Big Heat came out only two years after the Estes Kefauver hearings and stories like these were topical. Another veteran police sergeant has committed suicide and Ford's called in. The widow, Jeanette Nolan, appears to be cooperating, but when the late cop's mistress contacts Ford and is later found murdered, this sets off a chain of events that brings tragedy to Ford personally, but also lead to the cleaning up of the town.

Normally the kind of part that Ford is cast in would go to someone like Kirk Douglas who would explode with all kinds of rage on the screen. What Lang did was cast Glenn Ford, known as one of the cinema's nicest men and squarest shooters. When the gangsters accidentally kill his wife, Jocelyn Brando, with a car bomb meant for him, Ford goes off on a rage and you know there is no force that will stop him without killing him. His performance is effective precisely because of Ford's nice guy image, the viewer identifies with him as Mr. Average Man. Think of Ford as Atticus Finch as cop instead of a lawyer and something happening to kill one of his kids. Gregory Peck as Atticus would react the same way.

The movie rises with what is arguably Ford's greatest screen role. But Glenn gets nice support from Gloria Grahame as the good time gun moll who also comes in for tragedy because she's a flirt and Lee Marvin the number one button man for syndicate head Alexander Scourby. Marvin had done several roles before The Big Heat, but it was in this film that he got his first real critical notice.

Carolyn Jones has a small part as a woman who Lee Marvin beats up and my favorite small role in the film is from Edith Evanson as a shy crippled woman who gives Ford his first real lead in tracking down his wife's killers. By the way Jeanette Nolan is one truly evil woman as the late sergeant's widow, one of her best screen roles.

The Big Heat is one of Fritz Lang's best at what he does best, delve into the dark side of his hero/protagonists.

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22 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

The Good and the Bad are eternal

Author: novisplova ( from New York
12 November 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is a precursor to "Serpico" starring Al Pacino many years later. It's the story of an honest cop surrounded by corrupt and cowardly police officials who are in the take of a powerful city mafia. It's like Chicago during the times of Al Capone. The script is well written and has a good pace. The scenes are neither too short or too prolonged, just the right amount to move the story along. The actors played their parts well: Lee Marvin as a sadistic degenerate thug is very convincing as is Gloria Grahame playing his not so empty headed girlfriend, who has more depth and humanity than meets the eye. Jocelyn Brando (Marlon Brando's sister) played a small but very convincing role as Detective Bannion's loving and supporting wife, who encourages him to be the honest cop that he is. Their best scene together is right before she gets blown off in the car. It's a very tender, sentimental family scene when their daughter interrupts their kissing because she cannot go to bed. This is actually the pivotal scene of the film because Katie's violent death becomes Bannion's main motive in getting her killers. Jocelyn Brando plays the role of the perfect woman: dedicated wife, mother and the moral support behind her husband and Glenn Ford plays the role defending this order of things. In the end, he triumphs over those who seek to destroy this order: Lee Marvin and his thugs. The film makes a strong case for this theory with the hope that the natural order of things has been restored.

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