Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Big Combo (1955)

Director: Joseph H Lewis

Starring: Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace, Robert Middleton, Lee Van Cleef, Earl Holliman
More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Most Startling Story The Screen Has Ever Dared Reveal!

Plot: Police Lt. Diamond (Wilde) is obsessed with nabbing the notorious Mr. Brown (Conte), a man he's suspected of wrongdoing for years yet has never been able to snare. But Brown's beautiful blond girlfriend (Wallace), a woman with shadowy desires, is an equally temping target.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yep

Damn fine film noir! It's got all the ingredients you need: a seedy jazz score (Bronislau Kaper), sharp and fast dialogue, a clever and nasty villain (Conte), a determined cop (Wilde), a sexy moll (Wallace), the mean streets of the big city and gay hitmen (Cleef & Holliman). Gay hitmen? Yup. Even though I've seen this before, I hadn't really given it much thought but it seems that Cleef & Holliman's characters are gay. I just figured they were really good pals. All of the clues are there, though. I'll have to pay more attention to that aspect the next time around. What's interesting is that making them gay could slice one of two ways. It'd be nice to think that writer Philip Yordan was being progressive and snuck it in but then it could have been just the opposite by making them even more degenerate (if one considers being gay that way). I'd like to think it's the former.

Richard Conte makes a great villain and the performances are great all around. It was especially nice to see Cleef with a sizable role with lots of dialogue. It'd be another ten years before he really made the big time. THE BIG COMBO is a great crime picture and it should be required viewing for fans of the genre.

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