Big Heat, The/ B+, B+
Columbia/1953/89/FS 1.33/BW

      The Big Heat is a cop drama, a revenge drama, a gangland drama, a story of corruption and good cops versus bad cops. Detective Dave Bannion, family man and honest cop in a corrupt town, uncovers the stench of police department corruption that irrevocably draws him into a black hole. Bannion must face his own darkness when his life explodes into a nightmare.
The Big Heat commands your attention from the very first moment where it starts off with a definitive gun shot. Director Fritz Lang is a fine cinematic story-teller. It moves at a very quick pace from stage to stage, yet all the character evidence is complete before moving on.  The Big Heat is told in clean, simple, straight forward strokes. Lang moves in a logical order and he sets relationships and characters up with great skill. Some of the compositions and visual stylizations of the photography are really well done. A good example of the seamless blending of the camera and story technique is when Dave Bannion goes into The Retreat to question the bartender. When he leaves, there's a reflection back into the bar on the window of a telephone booth he passes. This effectively takes the viewer back into the bar and then brings the bartender into the phone booth. Its a subtle yet simply elegant flourish.

Checking out the "B" girl. ©Columbia

     The film is often considered amongst the luminous classics of Film Noir. The fine Film Noir standard bearer caught the tale end of the wave of tough black and white films as the fifties began to give way to more and more color productions and widescreen. The Big Heat is certainly a fine example of Fritz Lang's American work.
    Glenn Ford is very fine as Detective Dave Bannion. Ford's a no-nonsense actor. He invests Bannion with honesty, a touch of self-righteousness, that becomes distorted by pain. Ford lights up as family man, doesn't pull his punches as a cop, and as a husband seeking justice he gets really tough. Ford is surrounded by some terrific central supporting performances. Lee Marvin is slithery and slimy as Vince Stone, strong arm enforcer for mob boss Mike Lagana. He's tough, he's nasty, he's unpredictable.  Alexander Scourby does not fall into caricature mannerisms in his convincing portrait of Lagana. Gloria Grahame is a force of sexual nature as Stone's girl Debby. She's seductive, she's playful. she's a drunk walking tightrope. She practically glows in Lang's camera lens. Her skin gets radiant treatment. Lang lights her in a special way to emphasize the pay-off even more. That first introduction with her bouncy to the music mixing a batch of cocktails is unforgettable. Under Lang's direction, the performances are unusually unadorned. Even Marvin, an actor who can certainly go over the top, is kept in effective control by the director's choices. 
     Settings are effective. Bar scenes and apartments feel authentic. Fight sequences, whether fisticuffs or guns, are well staged. It's a finely detailed film, one worth seeing and enjoying many times over. Perhaps one can site as carping weaknesses the shallow performances of some of the peripheral cops, but it doesn't diminish the overall impact. Ford's the force in this film complimented beautifully by Grahame's touching performance.
     A wholly satisfying transfer. Images are quite sharp. Grain is very fine adding to the look of classic film stock. There are some scenes that have an uneven focus, but it appears to be the artistic choice of the director. Black levels are very natural. Gray scale range is very natural. Lighting is excellent. There are some specs of dirt on the film elements, but they are minor. There are no major scratches or glitches. The sound has very low level hiss that's hardly perceptible and you pretty much had to strain to hear it. Other than that, dialogue is very clear.


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Le Trou/ A-,A-

Outstanding prison escape procedural,. Le Trou is filmed with stunning determination. A beautiful transfer from very good sources elements. Black and white with subs.

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