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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 - Boxer
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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 »
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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

Jean Wallace was Cornel Wilde's wife at the time. See more »

Goofs

In the final scene at the airport, the position of the spotlight attached to the car that Susan keeps aiming at Brown changes from the top of the windshield to the bottom and back again. See more »

Quotes

Mr. Brown: Book me, Small Change.
Leonard Diamond: Alright, take him out, Sam.
Sam Hill: To the bullpen?
Leonard Diamond: No, back to the gutter.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Rules of Film Noir (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Brutal and Twisted Noir
18 December 2006 | by evanston_dadSee all my reviews

Cornel Wilde plays a police detective obsessed with bringing down crime lord Mr. Brown (Richard Conte), while hoping at the same time to win the affections of Conte's girl, Jean Wallace, in this tremendously atmospheric noir from 1955. The noir genre wouldn't last much longer (many contend that 1958's "Touch of Evil" is the last true noir), but it went out with a bang, giving us some of its best examples (this, "Kiss Me Deadly," "On Dangerous Ground") in its last years.

Wilde plays detective Leonard Diamond like a man coming apart at the seams. His determination to bring an end to Brown's reign feels as if it's fueled by personal motivations as much as by a sense of justice. This ambiguity in the hero's actions adds to the rotten atmosphere created by director Joseph Lewis, in which the bad guys often have more allure than the good ones. Richard Conte certainly has magnetism to spare; his monotone, machine-gun patter when belittling Diamond for being a "little man" nearly makes you forget that Wilde towers over Conte whenever they're in the frame together. And, despite his chauvinist treatment of her, one can understand why Jean Wallace's character would be drawn against her will to the more virile Conte than to the "impotent" Wilde.

Indeed, the question of manhood -- who has it and who doesn't -- is central to "The Big Combo." It's a theme common to the genre, but is given one of its most overt treatments here. In this twisted world, the ability to inflict pain -- be it mental, emotional, physical or sexual -- is a measure of one's ability to "be a man" and make it in the world. Those who aren't man enough, like Mr. Brown's gay henchmen or right-hand man, McClure (played with just the right amount of vulnerability by Brian Donlevy), are destroyed.

"The Big Combo" boasts arresting black and white images, and a number of thrillingly memorable set pieces (let's just say that imaginative and recurring use is made of a hearing aid). It doesn't beat its kissing cousin from the same year, "Kiss Me Deadly," in my book, but it's an awfully fun ride.

Grade: A


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