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A prime example of the American film noir style that flourished during the 1940s and '50s, The Big Combo is now highly regarded as a stylistic milestone for its innovative use of deep shadows and harsh, singular light sources to define its visual strategy. This look is largely credited to the rule-breaking brilliance of cinematographer John Alton, who turns a standard plot of the era into a richly atmospheric experiment in visual invention. Ignoring conventional approaches to lighting, Alton defines the screen in terms of blackness, often framing characters as silhouettes cast in ominous grays or thick, roiling fogs. Moving from clarity to abstraction with masterful grades in between, Alton's trend-setting style has been celebrated by cinematographers since the film's release in 1955.
The film's plot keeps brisk pace with the visuals, focusing on the obsessive efforts of a tenacious detective (Cornel Wilde) to destroy a sadistic mobster (Richard Conte) whose vicious influence has nearly ruined the life of the woman (Jean Wallace) he keeps under his dark wing. Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman are nicely cast as the villain's toady henchmen, and Brian Donlevy's usual limitations serve him well as the humbled, frustrated kingpin who's been stifled by Conte's ambition. Director Joseph H. Lewis previously demonstrated his raw, stylistic vigor with the earlier cult favorite Gun Crazy, and here he's in peak form with a perfect match of subject and sensibility. The result is hard-boiled entertainment that still packs a punch. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Solid transfer of a must own movie. Great to see it looking this good. Price is better than anywhere else at the time of this review too. Delivery was prompt. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Mattdpnt
Fans of the Noire B-Picture can learn a lot from this movie. Joseph Lewis (the magnificent "Gun Crazy") helms it, John Alton ( "T-Men", "Railroaded", and the astounding "Raw... Read morePublished on June 24 2002 by Mad Dog
Great movie and one of the best examples of film noir but this release is awful. The image quality is terrible and it looks like it is copy off an old print with bad scratches,... Read morePublished on Dec 18 2001 by dwdp
Movie about a dedicated detective hot on the trail of a gangster while at the same time hot for his girl. Read morePublished on Oct. 13 2001 by Axolotl
Gritty, entertaining story is nevertheless upstaged by excellent cinematography and direction. However, not for those who can't take an unrelenting grim tone. Read morePublished on Sept. 18 2001 by Joseph P. Menta, Jr.
Noir fans know this one, but many more people beyond that select group should know it, too. This is a gripping tale about two men obsessed with destroying each other while they... Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2001
It is sad that such a tense, gritty and beautiful little film has been given such an awful presentation. The picture quality is passable, but tends to be murky. Read morePublished on May 30 2001 by George R. Willeman