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THE BIG HEAT: another great Fritz Lang noir


misswonderly3
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I love The Big Heat. I've seen it many times, and I own the DVD.

 

There are several features about it worth noting:

 

The cast: I know a lot of people here don't like Glenn Ford, but I'm fine with him, and I think he's really good in this role as the frustrated cop who does a Dirty Harry before Clint Eastwood was out of short pants (ok, slight exaggeration.) 

And Gloria Graham ! Yes ! One of my fave actresses in noir, or any genre for that matter. Gotta watch it for her and her pretty face. (Cause we all know what happens to that pretty face...)

Lee Marvin- an early role for him, already setting him up in a "bad guy" image.

 

the scenes:  SPOILERS ! !  Hot coffee splashed on the pretty face (poor Gloria !), Glenn talking tough to the corrupt official's equally corrupt wife, the scene in the head villain's home, where his teenage daughter is having a sweet sixteen party, and the villain talks about his saintly "mother".

 

The black and the white:  as usual with Fritz Lang movies, love the lighting and cinematography in TBH.

 

I'm never bored for one moment watching this film. 

Edit: Check it out if you can, those who've never seen it (and even those who have. (wrong date in original post.)

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I love The Big Heat. I've seen it many times, and I own the DVD.

 

There are several features about it worth noting:

 

The cast: I know a lot of people here don't like Glenn Ford, but I'm fine with him, and I think he's really good in this role as the frustrated cop who does a Dirty Harry before Clint Eastwood was out of short pants (ok, slight exaggeration.) 

And Gloria Graham ! Yes ! One of my fave actresses in noir, or any genre for that matter. Gotta watch it for her and her pretty face. (Cause we all know what happens to that pretty face...)

Lee Marvin- an early role for him, already setting him up in a "bad guy" image.

 

the scenes:  SPOILERS ! !  Hot coffee splashed on the pretty face (poor Gloria !), Glenn talking tough to the corrupt official's equally corrupt wife, the scene in the head villain's home, where his teenage daughter is having a sweet sixteen party, and the villain talks about his saintly "mother".

 

The black and the white:  as usual with Fritz Lang movies, love the lighting and cinematography in TBH.

 

I'm never bored for one moment watching this film.  Check it out, friends, it's on TCM tomorrow afternoon at 4:15.

 

The Big Heat is a first rate noir.   One thing that is interesting about the film is that in the hero's quest for justice women are expendable.     All the victims are innocent women (well except for the corrupt cop's wife but she wasn't a killer).

 

The sheer number of murdered women is telling;   Lucy the cop's girlfriend,  Bannion's wife, the cop's wife, and than Debby.  Even for a noir that is a lot of dead women.   Add to this the number of females threatened but not harmed and this is one unfriendly to women noir universe. 

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Yes, I've read that criticism of the film before.

But it doesn't bother me. And I'm a woman, and a feminist (whatever exactly that means - different things to different people. But we won't go there right now...).

 

There are plenty of noirs where men are killed, lots of them, but nobody points out the body count when it's men getting knocked off.

I do not feel that The Big Heat is misogynist. Not that you were specifically saying so, but others have.

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This is the only film in which I enjoy Glenn Ford's character. There's a certain feel to this one.. thanks to Fritz Lang, no doubt. Glenn's other films are watchable (to me) but I just don't care for his characters.

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Yes, I've read that criticism of the film before.

But it doesn't bother me. And I'm a woman, and a feminist (whatever exactly that means - different things to different people. But we won't go there right now...).

 

There are plenty of noirs where men are killed, lots of them, but nobody points out the body count when it's men getting knocked off.

I do not feel that The Big Heat is misogynist. Not that you were specifically saying so, but others have.

 

Well I didn't mean for my comment to be taken as a criticism of the film,  but instead just an interesting aspect of the film and something that makes it unique (I could be wrong but I can't recall another crime \ noir film with so many innocent women killed).

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This is the only film in which I enjoy Glenn Ford's character. There's a certain feel to this one.. thanks to Fritz Lang, no doubt. Glenn's other films are watchable (to me) but I just don't care for his characters.

I feel the same way. Ford's just a non entity to me in most films, but he's really effective in this role. But to me Grahame & Marvin are the best things about it. And this film made me appreciate Lang and caused me to look for more of his films. I almost forgot about Jeanette Nolan. She's really quite good. Hell, it's just a really good story well told.

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I've never been much of a fan of Glenn Ford either (seems to be a bit of a theme here, doesn't it?). I have a particularly difficult time liking either him or his character in Gilda.

 

The Big Heat is another story, however. I find Ford convincing in the role of the tough cop out for revenge, probably one of my two favourite Ford performances, the other, in complete contrast, his light comedy effort in The Sheepman, where he demonstrates a laid back charm that really works for me.

 

But, to me, The Big Heat, if it belongs to anybody, it's Gloria Grahame as the gangster good time girl who pays a price for hanging out with hoodlums but, like a woman scorned, or, should I say, scarred, finds her own way for retribution. The scene in which she scores her vengeance upon the repulsive (I'm talking character-wise, not physically, though he was no raving beauty) Lee Marvin is applaud worthy.

 

the-big-heat-lee-marvin-gloria-grahame-1

 

I think that this film and In a Lonely Place are the two films that give Grahame a special place in noir dramas, even if she doesn't play a classic femme fatale in either one of them.

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I love The Big Heat. I've seen it many times, and I own the DVD.

 

There are several features about it worth noting:

 

The cast: I know a lot of people here don't like Glenn Ford, but I'm fine with him, and I think he's really good in this role as the frustrated cop who does a Dirty Harry before Clint Eastwood was out of short pants (ok, slight exaggeration.)

 

I've also never understood the near-universal dislike of Glenn Ford around here.  He doesn't have the depth of a Robert Ryan or a Robert Mitchum, but that's more because of his assigned screen persona than anything inherently missing in his talent.  Just as Gary Cooper grunts and mutters his way through nearly every part, giving us the good old reliable Hollywood archetype of the strong and silent hero who's stupid on the surface but has childlike wisdom beneath it, and Spencer Tracy always seems to have a hot rivet up his derriere, so Ford often plays a part of an ordinary family man to whom bad things happen, and he always plays it with conviction.  About the only movie where he's totally miscast is A Pocketful of Miracles, but that entire film is so inferior to the original version of Lady For A Day that it's hard to blame its crapulence on any one actor.

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The Big Heat is a first rate noir.   One thing that is interesting about the film is that in the hero's quest for justice women are expendable.     All the victims are innocent women (well except for the corrupt cop's wife but she wasn't a killer).

 

The sheer number of murdered women is telling;   Lucy the cop's girlfriend,  Bannion's wife, the cop's wife, and than Debby.  Even for a noir that is a lot of dead women.   Add to this the number of females threatened but not harmed and this is one unfriendly to women noir universe. 

Good point. I wasn't thrilled with the film, and it wasn't even for the misogynistic murder of all the women.

 

I just didn't care about any of the characters, not even the kid who reacted before her blocks fell when playing with her father. 

 

Debby's intro scene was very funny, Grahame was very good.

 

On Ford, it's curious. He is apparently handsome, but is as sexy as cold soup.

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I love Fritz Lang films and always felt Hitchcock emulated his style. Lang used a lot more symbolism, like a good German. I can't recall the repeated symbols used in THE BIG HEAT, but his typical ones are doors and clocks.

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Hi. I can't wait. I was impressed by Lang and after reading about him I have another one of his films on the back burner. It's called Ministry of Fear. Anything I should watch out for? The topic reminds me of another film I like called The Big Trees.

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Halroy--I am not in film noir class, and don't want to spoil a film you may not have seen.  With Lang--always look at the camera angles , the lighting or lack of it--and watch the shadows.  Ministry of Fear is in black & white--so those elements will be especially telling.  Enjoy the film.

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I wish the term "film noir" had never been invented, this is over the top. Now a movie where no one is killed is called classic film noir ( Nightmare Alley). Puleeze.

 

Soo the movie is total sleeze, I get it. But not a single intentional death? lol.

 

BTW yes I do like the movie, however to call it film noir when not a bullet flies? No pushes off cliffs? No snuff outs?

 

Fake Film Noir.

 

PS No I won't debate this either, it is a lose-lose. This is like trying to debate if Brute Force is film noir. Why is that one film noir and Birdman of Alcatraz isn't?

 

Anyway if anyone wondered if someone has to die in film noir you have your answer now.

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I wish the term "film noir" had never been invented, this is over the top. Now a movie where no one is killed is called classic film noir ( Nightmare Alley). Puleeze.

 

Soo the movie is total sleeze, I get it. But not a single intentional death? lol.

 

BTW yes I do like the movie, however to call it film noir when not a bullet flies? No pushes off cliffs? No snuff outs?

 

Fake Film Noir.

 

PS No I won't debate this either, it is a lose-lose. This is like trying to debate if Brute Force is film noir. Why is that one film noir and Birdman of Alcatraz isn't?

 

Anyway if anyone wondered if someone has to die in film noir you have your answer now.

 

I agree that the debate about 'is this film noir or not' is kind of silly (but it can be fun). 

 

But it appears you fall into the trap of having a very narrow POV as it relates to film noir style (note I view noir as a style and not a genre).    Yes,  someone being killed \ murdered is often a noir theme but there are no list of requirements;   i.e.  a film must have the following themes,  situations,  visuals, etc.. to be a 'noir'.     

 

To me what is more fruitful is to discuss, on a per film basis, what noir elements are contained (or not), in a film.        

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MovieMadness--am not arguing about where Nightmare Alley is true film noir.  Yes, NA is total sleaze. It's also a case of where the studio was playing everything they could safe--so Tyrone Powers' box office appeal wouldn't be damaged.  They didn't want to kill the goose that laid their golden egg.  As it turned out, Twentieth Century Fox lost a bundle on NA--& Tyrone Power didn't get any really interesting roles till his contract ran out (or he broke it--I forget which).

 

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I wish the term "film noir" had never been invented, this is over the top. Now a movie where no one is killed is called classic film noir ( Nightmare Alley). Puleeze.

 

Soo the movie is total sleeze, I get it. But not a single intentional death? lol.

 

BTW yes I do like the movie, however to call it film noir when not a bullet flies? No pushes off cliffs? No snuff outs?

 

Fake Film Noir.

 

PS No I won't debate this either, it is a lose-lose. This is like trying to debate if Brute Force is film noir. Why is that one film noir and Birdman of Alcatraz isn't?

 

Anyway if anyone wondered if someone has to die in film noir you have your answer now.

 

Who said film noir has to have a murder in it?

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In Nightmare Alley the main character is not likeable, but the same thing was said of Night and the City.

 

Night and the City is more sleeze like Nightmare Alley, yet the main character gets it in the end with a real noir ending. So of the two it isn't even close, Night and the City is the real noir.

 

The movie to compare The Big Heat to is The Big Combo. They seem a lot alike and The Big Combo has more noir in it. I won't go into detail but trust me on that one, lol. But The Big Heat is more noir than Nightmare Alley. On a scale this has to go, and the way things are happening someday I expect to see Citizen Kane called film noir to help sell more DVD's.

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In Nightmare Alley the main character is not likeable, but the same thing was said of Night and the City.

 

Night and the City is more sleeze like Nightmare Alley, yet the main character gets it in the end with a real noir ending. So of the two it isn't even close, Night and the City is the real noir.

 

The movie to compare The Big Heat to is The Big Combo. They seem a lot alike and The Big Combo has more noir in it. I won't go into detail but trust me on that one, lol. But The Big Heat is more noir than Nightmare Alley. On a scale this has to go, and the way things are happening someday I expect to see Citizen Kane called film noir to help sell more DVD's.

 

Night and the City is set in London.   Therefore it can't be real noir.   ;)

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But didn't the French invent noir?

 

The French invented the femme fatale while the Germans invented the visuals.    (this is a JOKE).

 

My point was that trying to define what is 'true' noir is folly.     Instead there are noir themes, noir visuals,   noir plot devices, noir character and their associated motivations etc...   I guess one can count these various 'things' and say the more they exist the more 'noir' a film is.    Hey I do that from time to time (i.e.  I can get caught up in this madness) but taking this too serious is spinning one's wheels.

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