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The Big Combo (1955)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 13 February 1955 (USA)
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.

Director:

Joseph H. Lewis (as Joseph Lewis)

Writer:

Philip Yordan (by)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Cornel Wilde ... Police Lt. Leonard Diamond
Richard Conte ... Mr. Brown
Brian Donlevy ... Joe McClure
Jean Wallace ... Susan Lowell
Robert Middleton ... Police Capt. Peterson
Lee Van Cleef ... Fante
Earl Holliman ... Mingo
Helen Walker ... Alicia Brown
Jay Adler ... Detective Sam Hill
John Hoyt ... Nils Dreyer
Ted de Corsia ... Ralph Bettini
Helene Stanton ... Rita
Roy Gordon Roy Gordon ... Audubon
Whit Bissell ... Doctor (scenes deleted) (as Whit Bissel)
Steve Mitchell Steve Mitchell ... Bennie Smith
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Storyline

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 <cook@ssdgwy.mdc.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Most Startling Story The Screen Has Ever Dared Reveal!


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Swedish

Release Date:

13 February 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Hoodlum See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Unusually for a film noir of this period, the score is not orchestral but jazz. See more »

Goofs

When John Hoyt as Dreyer reaches into his desk for a gun, the contents of the desk on the insert close-up do not match the contents on the master shot. See more »

Quotes

Joe McClure: He pulled a gun on me. What did you want me to do?
Mr. Brown: With your kind of brain, there's nothing else you could do.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Reservoir Dogs (1992) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Near the end of the noir cycle, one of its most stylish, innovative films
26 May 2003 | by bmacvSee 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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