Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Big Combo (1955)

Directed by Joseph (H) Lewis. With Cornel Wilde, Jean Wallace, Brian Donlevy, Richard Conte, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Middleton, Earl Holliman, Jay Adler, Helene Stanton, and  Helen Walker. Director of photography on this is John Alton and it's very dark and stylistically lighted as a result. The story is: Obsessed New York 93rd Precinct cop Diamond (Wilde) is after sharp dressed rapidly staccato talking sadistic Brooklyn mobster Brown (Conte) who's often repeated philosophy is "First is first and second is nobody"!  Jay Adler is Wilde's partner who shadows the girlfriend of Conte and her two slightly "light in the loafer" escorts about town.

McClure (Donlevy) is his second banana who he inherited when he took over the racket from Grassi who left suddenly for Sicily. Van Cleef & Holliman are Conte's not very bright musclemen who spend most of their time chaperoning Conte's cute, cultured, blonde, chapping at the bit, bombshell girlfriend Susan (Wallace) around town. Walker who shows up rather late in the film is Brown's ex-wife.

Stanton plays a voluptuous brunette burlesque dancer Rita (a Marie Windsor look-a-like) who is stuck on Diamond. Diamond seems to be just using her for sex. Wilde really needs to see a shrink, he doesn't know a good thing when he sees it, but he also becomes obsessed with saving "soiled" dove Susan.

Diamond (Wilde) on way to Burlesque House to blow off some steam or whatever  Evil

Diamond (Wide) and statuesque Rita (can't fix stupid, no?)

Its a gritty, violent film noir about persistent cop Wilde going up against cunning, dapper racketeer Conte. Wilde is such an overly obsessive righteous prick, you catch yourself rooting for Conte to dump him in the East River with a set of cement overshoes.  And speaking of shoes Wilde has something of a shoe fetish. Conte is just as obsessed with power and with Susan, at one point we see them after a confrontation putting the "kink" on. Conte kisses her hard, one of his hands drop out of sight we see her eyes practically roll up into her head before the cut Conte starts heading "south", and you don't need a paint by the numbers picture with arrows to figure out where "things" are going.... and according to the story they have been going on for about four years.

Another Conte kink was always wanting Susan to wear virginal white  Evil

Conte & Susan getting on the kink

A very cult/kinky film indeed, stylishly lit and directed the whole film has a consistent dark halo around it as if you are peeping on the characters from out of a sewer, we can call it "Sewerscope". The Big Combo has it all, not one but two obsessed characters, the Femme Fatale, a lot of the classic noir's dark diegetic world, sexual innuendos, stylistic lighting and Donlevy's demise is just icing on this cake. There are one or two far-fetched plot points but the film is so overwhelmingly compellingly sleazy that you just go with the (sewage) flow. Contains one of the iconic frequently referenced Film Noir sequences (still below).

Also keep an ear out for Wilde's classic Noir line "Saks Fifth Avenue. . . She came to see me in her best shoes."

Its got a nice opening jazzy score also as it pans the  New York City night, 9/10 upon third viewing.   

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