Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Big Combo (1955)

Dir: Joseph H. Lewis

I actually watched this about a week ago, but the next day I left for Seattle for the Noir City Film Fest, so I never got a chance to post anything on it. I had seen this one before and was very fond of it, I was glad to see my memory and opinion of it held up well. Cornel Wilde plays a cop that has it out for Richard Conte's Mr. Brown, a guy with a lot of money and power, and Wilde wants to know how he got it. Wilde is willing to do just about anything to catch Conte up to no good, but has had almost no success over the years. His boss is ready to pull his budget and he tells Wilde to move on. Wilde finally gets a chance at Conte when his dame, Susan, attempts suicide and says a little too much in a weakened state. (In an interesting side note, Susan is played by Jean Wallace who herself attempted suicide twice in the 1940's and then later went on to marry star Cornel Wilde in 1951, the two stayed together for thirty years.) A name Susan gives is enough to uncover a murder plot to keep Wilde's character going. Conte is pitch perfect as Brown delivering a powerhouse of a speech to a boxer he has interest in that sets the tone for the film and tells you everything you need to know about his character. The most memorable scenes, however, involve Brian Donlevy and his hearing aid, just watch it. Lewis is best known for Gun Crazy (1950), but in many ways, I prefer this film. Gun Crazy is often cited for it's association of sex to violence, with The Big Combo, Lewis hints at a desire to explore homosexuality as it has been cited that two supporting characters, played by Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman, seem to be in a relationship. Even though they are muscle that kill for Mr. Brown, they are shown as being a fiercely loyal duo with a suggestion of a positive coupling, making the film all the more interesting.
The movie is available from at least three sources, I have only seen the Image disc. The transfer is solid if not perfect and the other two are from Geneon and Alpha, this makes me believe the reviews I have read that state that this is the only edition worth watching. There are no extra features and the disc is out of print, but if you're interested in this one or already a fan, I would pay the extra for the Image disc.


No comments:

Post a Comment