The Big Combo (1955)

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A police lt. is ordered to stop investigating deadly crime boss Mr. Brown, because he hasn't been able to get any hard evidence against him. He then goes after Brown's girlfriend who despises him, for information instead.


(as Joseph Lewis)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Police Lt. Leonard Diamond
Joe McClure
Susan Lowell
Robert Middleton ...
Police Capt. Peterson
Alicia Brown
Jay Adler ...
Detective Sam Hill
Nils Dreyer
Ralph Bettini
Helene Stanton ...
Roy Gordon ...
Doctor (scenes deleted) (as Whit Bissel)
Steve Mitchell ...
Bennie Smith - Boxer


Police Lt. Diamond is told to close his surveillance of suspected mob boss Mr. Brown because it's costing the department too much money with no results. Diamond makes one last attempt to uncover evidence against Brown by going to Brown's girlfriend, Susan Lowell. Written by Norman L Cook <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Most Startling Story The Screen Has Ever Dared Reveal!


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Release Date:

13 February 1955 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Association criminelle  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The names 'Fante' and 'Mingo' were later used by writer-director Joss Whedon for two characters - twin brothers - that the Serenity crew meet in the movie Serenity (2005). See more »


In the scene where Susan is having a drink in her apartment, there are shadows of plant leaves on a door in the background. However when Mr Brown comes in via another door, these shadows have vanished in the ensuing shots. See more »


Mr. Brown: I think Mr. Diamond needs a drink. Got any liquor?
Fante: How about some paint thinner?
Mr. Brown: No, that'll kill him. Anything else?
Fante: Hair tonic, 40% alcohol.
Mr. Brown: Fine.
See more »


Referenced in Reservoir Dogs (1992) See more »

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User Reviews

Near the end of the noir cycle, one of its most stylish, innovative films
26 May 2003 | by (Western New York) – See all my reviews

The Big Combo may be the only film noir ever plugged on the I Love Lucy show (Cornel Wilde guest-starred in the episode which aired April 18, 1955). Coming late in the noir cycle and directed by Joseph Lewis, it seized a position as one of its most innovative and stylish titles. And, with the wizardly John Alton behind the camera, it kicks film noir's distinctive look up into another, rarefied dimension (Alton must have been emulating the Dutch Masters – spare traceries of light limn almost abstract patterns on the screen's primordial blackness).

The story, too, stays a primal one of obsession, lust and revenge. Ninety-six-fifty-a-week cop Wilde lives in a cheap flat across from a burlesque house, one of whose headliners (Helene Stanton) he occasionally `sees.' But his only passion is for nailing suave but savage crime boss Richard Conte. Iin a performance brimming with cool menace, Conte is fond of saying `First is first and second is nobody.' Wilde also harbors half-admitted fantasies of riding to the rescue of Conte's remote and unwilling mistress (Jean Wallace, Wilde's off-screen wife). Conte's so possessive that he assigns an intimate twosome of torpedoes (Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman) as her full-time bodyguards (since they're gay, he trusts them to serve as eunuchs). But when they fail to prevent her overdosing on pills, she falls into Wilde's hands at hospital and starts to babble about a woman called Alicia.

Another wild card is Conte's lieutenant Brian Donleavy, over the hill and hard of hearing, who chafes at playing second fiddle; he saw himself as heir to the organization when unseen capo Grazzi `retired' to Sicily. His grudge against his boss makes him reckless, placing the whole `combination,' or combo, in jeopardy. Wilde, meantime, has tracked down elusive Alicia, Conte's supposedly murdered wife (Helen Walker, the duplicitous psychiatrist in Nightmare Alley, in her last screen appearance); only she knows where the bodies are buried and can write her husband's death warrant....

The Big Combo counts as one of the more sadistic instalments in the cycle, but the mayhem and executions are played as big set-pieces, as flourishes; Lewis draws on Alton's full fetch of tricks (and in one memorable instance, on the sound editor's) to highlight but at the same time soften their nastiness. There's a streak of sadism in the casting, too: Both Wallace's attempted suicide and Walker's dissipation bring to mind the actresses' private troubles. Innovative and striking, The Big Combo comes as close as any film in the noir cycle to being an art-house triumph; it consolidates Lewis' reputation as an erratic director who was nonetheless capable – here, and with his Gun Crazy – of pulling off something unexpected yet extraordinary.

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