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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Brown.
Quentin Tarantino owes his career -- or what's left of it, anyway -- to Joseph L. Lewis' *The Big Combo*, from 1955. Fans of *Resevoir Dogs* will be surprised to see that the villain of the piece (a hissable Richard Conte) is named "Mr. Brown" (which was Tarantino's color-coded name in his own film). They will also be shocked to discover that Tarantino is...
Published on Sept. 25 2002

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Combo Is Fine, It Just Needs Another Script
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 Deal") photographs, and the cast includes Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, and the young Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman.
Film students take note:
There's obviously no money to...
Published on June 24 2002 by Mad Dog


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Brown., Sept. 25 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Big Combo,the (DVD)
Quentin Tarantino owes his career -- or what's left of it, anyway -- to Joseph L. Lewis' *The Big Combo*, from 1955. Fans of *Resevoir Dogs* will be surprised to see that the villain of the piece (a hissable Richard Conte) is named "Mr. Brown" (which was Tarantino's color-coded name in his own film). They will also be shocked to discover that Tarantino is something of a rip-off artist when they see the scene here where Conte and his goons torture a cop tied to a chair. In 1955, force-feeding someone booze, splashing it all over him, and cramming a hearing-aid into his ear with the other end attached to a radio was considered sufficient torture. In 1992, our sensibilities required the removal of the ear and splashes of gasoline. Progress. At any rate, my point is that *The Big Combo* was a very influential film noir among connoisseurs. It still packs a wallop. I take issue with the fellow from Canada below on several points. As for his sniping about the low budget here . . . yeah? So? If anyone can name a classic film noir that had an extravagant budget to play with -- with the possible exception of *Double Indemnity* -- I'd be interested to know about it. And my answer to his complaints about the dialogue is to suggest that perhaps he has confused *The Big Combo* with, well, *Double Indemnity*. I personally find the dialogue to be compact, lean and mean, and reasonably free of superfluous verbiage. (Unlike in Wilder's "classic", wherein insurance agents talk like lifelong Hell's Kitchen hoods, to say nothing of nattering voice-over narration.) There are certainly no page-long, single-space monologues in this movie. In any case, the absolutely stunning cinematography provided by the master John Alton should mute any misguided criticisms. This will be one of the best-shot black & white movies you will ever see. It ranks with the Expressionist milestones of Murnau and Welles. The pulsing alternation between shadow and sudden clarity is particularly impressive. A word of praise also goes to the performers: Jean Wallace is a walking blonde veneer steaming with sexual degredation beneath the surface; her real-life husband Cornel Wilde is the quintessential New York City detective. The supporting players are great, too. [The DVD is not so great. No extras, but who cares? -- it's the transfer that's really lacking. *The Big Combo* needs, and deserves, a thorough clean-up, in the Criterion tradition. We're still missing the entirety of Alton's photographic achievement with this product.]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Combo Is Fine, It Just Needs Another Script, June 24 2002
This review is from: Big Combo,the (DVD)
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 Deal") photographs, and the cast includes Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, and the young Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman.
Film students take note:
There's obviously no money to spare here: the sets are all recycled from other B-pictures. What's impressive is how Lewis uses the same locations for multiple shots without and significant re-setting, he keeps his angles down and holds the long take. Alton helps with the right atmosphere and his wonderfully graphic compositions, and the cast get on board for the ride. You can almost see another "Gun Crazy" or "Raw Deal" emerging.
But the script is awful. In B-Movies, "Talk Is Cheap" - much cheaper than action, or scene changes. That's why Reservoir Dogs spends so much time in a warehouse (the similarities don't end there: in a scene of remarkable brutality Wilde is taped to a chair and tortured via a hearing air placed near his EAR!). But one of the problems with shooting few locations fast, is you need the dialog to fill the scenes.
It's just not here. The speeches (there isn't any conversation here, just hard-line pronouncements) are all tough-guy cliché: "he's the kind guy that blah blah blah, and blah blah, but blah blah, because mark my words, blah blah". They're not very good and they always go on for a few sentences -- or a page -- too long. Someone's always trying to stretch the analogy, or extend a metaphor, or get with the poetry of the streets. Nothing they say has anything to do with character. This the kind of juvenile dialog that turns up in parodies of old noire B-pics. It's a shame, because while this is a very capable cast worthy of better material, they just can't save this.
Picture and sound quality are good (Image Entertainment is an excellent DVD label), but unless your a student or serious film buff this is nothing more than a curiosity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must own item, great Price, great service, Oct. 28 2013
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This review is from: The Big Combo [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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. Fans of film noir shouldn't hesitate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, Muscular Film Noir, Feb. 25 2002
By 
William Hare (Seattle, Washington) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Big Combo,the (DVD)
This is tough, muscular film noir delivered by a master of the genre, director Joseph Lewis, whose master touch in low budget mystery gave us the unforgettable "Gun Crazy." The camera work is excellent in this epic about a large city at night, when two obsessive men do battle for turf control, giving us a microscopic view of its fierce underbelly and the ferocious mobsters who tenaciously seek to control it.
Cornell Wilde is a tough, uncompromisingly honest cop who is belittle by his equally determined adversary, Richard Conte, for being so bright yet ending up with such a small paycheck at the end of the week. Wilde has two reasons for bringing down the cocky Conte, that earlier expressed of seeking to make the city a more decent place with the mobster's loss of influence. The other is that he holds a passionate love for the beautiful blonde controlled in such a tight vise by Conte that she attempts suicide. The blonde is Wilde's real life wife, Jean Wallace, and Wilde is determined to pull her away from the egomaniacally dominating Conte before she is destroyed.
For a large part of the film Conte laughs at Wilde, taunting him over his ineffectuality, telling him he is wasting his time attempting to put him away. This is largely a bluff, though, since he recognizes Wilde's zealousness and competence. At one point his henchmen kill a lovely young stripper going with the policeman, intending to terminate Wilde instead.
Wilde is able to crack the case when he learns about the existence of Conte's wife, thought to be dead, played by Helen Walker. When Wilde gets the goods on the mobster and is ready to arrest him Conte begs his adversary to kill him. Wilde will have none of it, telling Conte that he will instead be tried, convicted, and sent to prison, where he will be a man devoid of power. Wilde knows that this is a much sterner punishment to Conte than death by execution.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Bad DVD, Dec 18 2001
This review is from: Big Combo,the (DVD)
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, milky contrast and clicking and popping on the track. I hope a reputable company like Criterion gets the rights and they can do a restoration and new transfer. Meanwhile don't waste your money on this version,
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stark, Dark and All To Disturbing!, Nov. 20 2001
By 
A* (New York, N.Y. United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Big Combo,the (DVD)
The Big Combo is a film every viewer needs to own not only did it set the standard for almost every film since its release it also set a bench mark for the imagination of the viewer! Never has a film needed the viewer to belive in it's worl so much and The Big Combo paints one hell of world men are all disguting women are drugged tourted and slept with more than a pillow! The film is so dark in it's overall apperance that the charater's are bathed in the night's air. Shoes and cars glisten ever so brightly and the women more than know how to manage themselves they seem to be ahead of th emen in terms of vices! But the most ingenious scene in the whole film is between Conte and his lady love not only does it makes your eyes pop with disbelief it is an exaple of how brilliant a film can be if it trusts the film's viewer is smarter than ear-wax! Nothing at all slows down The Big Combo the dialogue rattle and the scenes of unending torture are impressive. Time has made The Big Combo aged with such a sharp cutting brillance that fims today seem only to copy its style, with a less than thrilling outcome.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "The Big Combo" is a big treat!, Oct. 22 2001
This review is from: Big Combo, the (VHS Tape)
Movie about a dedicated detective hot on the trail of a gangster while at the same time hot for his girl. The leads consisting of Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, and Jean Wallace are excellent. Wilde stars as the obsessed (in more ways than one) detective who will stop at nothing to get his man. Conte plays the deadly calm and strangely seductive psychopathic gangster who gets under Wilde's skin. Blond beauty Wallace is the delicate and sensitive good-girl moll whom both men desire in a memorable performance as the conflicted girlfriend of Conte who knows he is thoroughly rotten and whose moral streak is repelled, but yet is powerlessly drawn to him. An amusing aside--the scene between Conte and Wallace where he kisses her on the face and then starts sliding down the length of her body, almost got cut from the movie when the Hay's office accused director Lewis of allowing oral sex to be implied onscreen. They asked him, "when Conte's character slips off camera range, where is he?" To that Lewis replied, "I don't know, maybe he went to get a cup of coffee," accused them of having dirty minds, and that put an end to that. Also good are Brian Donlevy as a crime kingpin rendered powerless by ambitious, cunning Conte; Helen Walker as Conte's stashed-away, troubled wife; and Helene Stanton as a tough yet tender sleazy dance hall dame. Just as much a star of this film has got to be one of the most wonderfully gritty cinematography in the history of movies: full of shadows, harsh lighting and dark recesses which serve to perfectly emphasize this world of mean streets, hard-boiled detectives, murderous thugs and gorgeous molls--all this, the previously mentioned performances, and a most unusual way to torture someone make this film-noir at its best!
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5.0 out of 5 stars "The Big Combo" is a big treat, Oct. 13 2001
This review is from: Big Combo, the (VHS Tape)
Movie about a dedicated detective hot on the trail of a gangster while at the same time hot for his girl. The three leads consisting of Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, and Jean Wallace are excellent. Wilde stars as the obsessed (in more ways than one) detective who will stop at nothing to get his man. Conte plays the deadly calm and strangely seductive psychopathic gangster who gets under Wilde's skin. Blond beauty Wallace is the delicate and sensitive good-girl moll whom both men desire in a memorable performance as the conflicted girlfriend of Conte who knows he is thoroughly rotten and whose moral streak is repelled, but nevertheless is powerlessly drawn to him. An amusing aside--the scene between Conte and Wallace where he kisses her on the face then starts sliding down the length of her body, almost got cut from the movie when the Hay's office accused director Lewis of allowing oral sex to be implied onscreen. They asked him, "when Conte's character slips off camera range, where is he?" To that Lewis replied, "I don't know, maybe he went to get a cup of coffee," accused them of having dirty minds, and that put an end to that. Also good is Brian Donlevy as an impotent (figuratively speaking) crime kingpin made powerless by ambitious, cunning Conte; Helen Walker as Conte's stashed-away troubled wife; and Helene Stanton as a tough yet tender sleazy dance-hall dame. Just as must a star of this film has got to be one of the most wonderfully gritty cinematography not just in film noir, but in movies period: full of shadows, harsh lighting, and dark recesses which serve to perfectly accentuate this world of mean streets, hard-boiled detectives, murderous thugs, and gorgeous molls--all this, the previously mentioned performances, and a most unusual way to torture someone make this film noir at its best!
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5.0 out of 5 stars "The Big Combo" is a big treat, Sept. 27 2001
This review is from: Big Combo, the (VHS Tape)
My review is already above.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dark crime drama delivers the goods, Sept. 18 2001
By 
Joseph P. Menta, Jr. (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Big Combo,the (DVD)
Gritty, entertaining story is nevertheless upstaged by excellent cinematography and direction. However, not for those who can't take an unrelenting grim tone. Memorable ending, with a BIT of a ray of sunshine in the final moments. The DVD utilized a pretty good print of the film (no major glitches), but there aren't any extras.
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Big Combo by Joseph H. Lewis (DVD - 2005)
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