Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Big Heat (1953)

(SLWB  September 21, 2011)

There are elements in great Noir film that catapult the individual films into the stratosphere. You know them when you see them, or hear them. I enjoy great cinematography, either great sleazey locations or great stylized studio sets, incredible set pieces that are icing on the cake. I grin at Memorable characters that leave indelible marks on my soul, and I love Femme Fatales to die for.

The Big Heat has the Femme Fatale to die for. Directed by Fritz Lang, and stars Glen Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby, Lee Marvin, Jeanette Nolan, and Carolyn Jones.

The story based on a novel by William P. McGivern, takes place in Philadelphia. A fastidious high ranking police official commits suicide and strangely leaves no note. Detective O'Bannion begins to investigate the circumstances uncovering mob connections to crime boss Mike Lagana (Scourby). The mob plants a bomb in O'Bannion's car but his wife (Jocelyn Brando) is killed starting it instead of him. O'Bannion checks into a hotel after his wife is buried.

Thwarted from starting an investigation O'Bannion goes rogue after the corrupt officials in the department try to tell him that it was a case of mistaken identity a union official across the street was supposed to be the bomb target.

Note: This is 1950's cars were started by turning the key to turn on the ignition, then you had to push a foot button with your foot to engage the starter (they didn't have solenoids back then) A car bomb on these cars would have to be  manufactured out of a starter motor so it could be bolted into place in lieu of the starter. Its a matter of taking the armature out and packing the guts full of explosives and rigging a detonator that activates with the foot button. So O'Bannion starts checking Philadelphia Wrecking Yards for any that employ ex-cons who may know how to do the job. He finds a connection to Vince Stone (Marvin)

The weak link in the mob organization is Stone's henchmen, Stone lives with his young mistress Debby (Grahame) who is as Moose Malloy may put it "cute as lace pants"

O'Bannion runs into Stone in a bar as he is roughing up some customers, O'bannion knocks him around and he skedaddles in a rush with two of his goons leaving Debby at the bar. O'Bannion leaves for the hotel but he hears the clicks of high heels on the sidewalk behind him, Debby has followed him out and attaches herself to him, saying that she never saw anyone put Vince Stone in his place before. Debby falls for O'Bannion, but the Hays Code still rules and although Debby accompanies O'Bnnion to his hotel not much happens between them and (as always) the bad girl must be punished.

This publicity still above off the net doesn't do justice to Grahame, she's extremely attractive in this film, she has those indelibly memorable gestures and a feline way of moving, that to me is absolutely irresistible. Some women just don't photograph as well when posed, candid and instantaneous shots work better to capture their particular magic.

She has series of sequences in the film in a sexy black dress below.

Gloria's Close Up.

She's impressed by O'Bannion

Offers to buy O'Bannion a drink

Picking up O'Bannion on the street

In O'Bannion's hotel room

Last closeup

Caught this again recently on TCM, and have since Picked up the Columbia Film Noir Classic Vol 1 DVD's.

Only one complaint with the Columbia Set release of the Big Heat, it doesn't have a running commentary during the film, but it does have two commentaries by Michael Mann and Martin Scorsese illustrating sections of the film, but they are not quite as satisfying.

One of my favorite Noirs 10/10

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