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The Big Heat (Bilingual)

Glenn Ford , Gloria Grahame , Fritz Lang    DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 25.80 & FREE Shipping. Details
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There's a satisfying sense of closure to the definitive noir kick achieved in The Big Heat: its director, Fritz Lang, had forged early links from German expressionism to the emergence of film noir, so it's entirely logical that the expatriate director would help codify the genre with this brutal 1953 film. Visually, his scenes exemplify the bold contrasts, deep shadows, and heightened compositions that define the look of noir, and he matches that success with the darkly pessimistic themes of this revenge melodrama.

The story coheres around the suicide of a crooked cop, and the subsequent struggle of an honest detective, Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford), to navigate between a corrupt city government and a ruthless mobster to uncover the truth. Initially, the violence here seems almost timid by comparison to the more explicit carnage now commonplace in films, yet the story accelerates as its plot arcs toward Bannion's showdown with kingpin Lagana (Alexander Scourby) and his psychotic henchman, the sadistic Vince Stone, given an indelible nastiness by Lee Marvin. When Bannion's wife is killed by a car bomb intended for the detective, both the hero and the story go ballistic: suspended from the force, he embarks on a crusade of revenge that suggests a template for Charles Bronson's Death Wish films, each step pushing Lagana and Stone toward a showdown. Bodies drop, dominoes tumbled by the escalating war between the obsessed Bannion and his increasingly vicious adversaries.

Lang's disciplined visual design and the performances (especially those of Ford, Marvin, Jeanette Nolan as the dead cop's scheming widow, and Gloria Grahame as Marvin's girlfriend) enable the film to transcend formula, as do several memorable action scenes--when an enraged Marvin hurls scalding coffee at the feisty Debby (Grahame), we're both shattered by the violence of his attack, and aware that he's shifted the balance of power. --Sam Sutherland


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I could go through life sideways." May 25 2004
Format:DVD
The Big Heat is similar to some of Fritz Lang's German films, like M and the Doctor Mabuse series. It links crime and politics (or, more accurately, criminals and a politicians), and shows the future as concentration camp, where even those who imagine themselves on the outside of the barbed wire are trapped inside.
But is Lang retelling the story of what happened in Germany, or is he warning his adopted country what could happen if people didn't challenge authority (here the police department, including the commissioner) that had been corrupted by a criminal leader? Maybe both.
The Big Heat is violent even compared to today's films and more believable than most. However one thing that jars today is the effeminacy of the crime boss, Mike Lagana, used as shorthand to show his corruption.
We first see Lagana in bed in silk pajamas with his bodyguard (in his robe) standing over Lagana, handing him the phone, lighting his cigarette. When Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford), the homicide detective who won't follow orders and leave Lagana alone, barges into Lagana's mansion to confront him about a cop's suicide, Lagana is under a huge portrait of his dead mother ("We lived together in this house"). Even from beyond the grave you can feel the mother's unhealthy influence on her son. Lagana mentions his daughter but never his wife.
For the most part you can tell the criminals from the decent people because the criminals dress better. Gloria Grahame's Debby Marsh, girlfriend of the vicious killer Vince Stone (Lee Marvin), tells the blackmailing wife of a policeman who was on the take, "We're sisters under the mink."
Debby and the cop's wife are just one pair of doubles in the movie. There's also Debby and Katie, Dave Bannion's wife.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hotter than a pot of coffee... Nov. 20 2003
Format:DVD
The Big Heat is an excellent film-noir directed by Fritz Lang with a very fitting title. Lee Marvin steals the show as Vince Stone. He is the scum of the earth in this film, and he does it so well. He's the bad guy you love to hate. Glenn Ford is also very good as detective Dave Bannion. Lang tells a great story of corruption, greed, and violence. You will be on the edge of your seat. Beautifully shot noir. ****1/2 (of *****), too bad Amazon doesn't use half-star intervals, huh?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good strong stuff Dec 3 2002
By A Customer
Format:DVD
a real bruiser of a movie. excellent 1950s cops movie with plenty of good performances; especially by Gloria Graham as the doomed Debbie and Lee Marvin as the sadist. pacing of this movie is incredible. good just barely overcomes evil in this movie. highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CLASSIC 50's NOIR..... Oct. 16 2002
Format:DVD
Awesome 50's detective film noir with Glenn Ford out to bust up a gang that's getting away with murder. He starts snooping around and finds a cover up bigger than he expected. When his wife gets blown up in their car by a bomb meant for him, he's told to take a "leave". So he sets out on his own to get the guys responsible. He hangs out at a club known to be frequented by the thugs and witnesses a party girl (Carolyn Jones) being victimized by hissably slimy Lee Marvin--- who's a key member of the gang. He intervenes and meets another party girl Debby (50's noir babe Gloria Grahame)who tells him to back off for his own good. Ford continues to snoop around and discovers things are even more involved than he thought. Debby proves to be helpful (she likes him) but Marvin scalds her face with boiling coffee when he finds out---a shocking highlight of the film. She goes to Ford, tells all and then takes matters into her own hands. She will be avenged. Tense, exciting story and top notch acting make this a bona-fide classic of the genre and not to be missed. They don't get much better than this. Ford is excellent and Grahame gives the kind of performance that defines a career. She's unforgettable as Debby. A must for DVD collectors who like their film noir pitch black and brutal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film Noir Oct. 6 2012
By From the Musician's Pen TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I had never seen this film before, but I enjoy old film noir and had read good things about this film. It turned out out to be a great film, up there with the best. I'm not going to give away any plot here, but there are several twists, in true noir style.

Like many other old films, I wish it had been remastered and transfered better. It's a bit grainy, like many others, but it doesn't take away from how good the fim is.

The DVD has little bonus features --- only a few other noir trailers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By J. Lovins TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
Columbia Pictures presents "THE BIG HEAT" (1953) - (90 min/B&W) -- Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Carolyn Jones & Alexander Scourby

Directed by Fritz Lang

The Big Heat is director Fritz Lang's landmark bleak, film noir crime classic and violent melodrama. Lang's characteristic expressionistic lighting, use of sets and decor, and costuming sharply reflected the personality traits of the film's major characters. The sparse screenplay of a story laced with revenge, murder, and hate was written by former crime reporter Sidney Boehm and based on a Saturday Evening Post serial and the hard-hitting, brutal 1952 novel by William P. McGivern. The film's title referred to the enforcement crack-down on lawlessness and illegal activities.

Its an uncompromising and grim story of an iron-willed, driven, dedicated, honest, incorruptible homicide detective within a crooked and perverted society and corrupt system at all levels (e.g., the mob, the commissioner, the police, and everyday citizens), and the enormous price that is paid to find justice. The crusading, vigilante rogue cop/hero must erode his idealistic, law-abiding principles when he resorts to the unlawful tactics of the hoodlums after the tragic murder of his young wife by sadistic, viperous gang members led by a big-time crime boss. He enlists the help of one of the gangs' molls in order to seek revenge.

Lang & Ford combined again for Human Desire (1954)

Special footnote: -- When Lee Marvin first sees Glenn Ford face to face, the music in the background is "Put the Blame on Mame," a reference to Ford's performance in Gilda ~~~ Columbia wanted to borrow Marilyn Monroe from 20th Century Fox to play the role of Debby Marsh, but Fox's asking price was too high.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "The city's being strangled by a gang of thieves"
"The big heat" (1953) is a classic film noir in black and white, directed by Fritz Lang. This movie is characterized by an intriguing plot, fast pace, and good acting, something... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2007 by M. B. Alcat
5.0 out of 5 stars Gratuitous Violence - it all started with one!,
Moll Debby, Gloria Grahame's character, is hideously scarred by a pot of boiling coffee thrown by her mobster boyfriend (Lee Marvin. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2007 by Nolene-Patricia Dougan
1.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated. Over-the-top. Cliched.
I can't believe anyone would rate this movie highly. The plot is predictable from the start. The writing is cliched to the max. Read more
Published on April 18 2004 by Charles Bargerstock
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like detective mysteries ,you'll love "The Big Heat"
Columbia Pictures under the Direction of Fritz Lang produced a great Good Cop with a Hero Image Against the Rotten Corrupt World of a 1953 City. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2003 by forrie
4.0 out of 5 stars BIG TROUBLE FOR A SMALL CITY COP - GREAT TRANSFER
Glenn Ford is a family guy/good guy/honest cop until somebody blows up his wife - oh well, into everyone's life a little rain must fall. This reads more like a hurricane. Read more
Published on May 24 2003 by Nix Pix
2.0 out of 5 stars Fair.
I don't know what all the fuss is about this one. Something about this is just not convincing. Glenn Ford is, frankly, not a stellar actor--and some of the other players,... Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars a bit dissapointing DVD
I was looking forward that THE BIG HEAT will be on DVD. It's one of the best film from Fritz Lang, which almost automatically translates as one of the greatest achievement in the... Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2002 by Toshifumi Fujiwara
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