Monday, December 27, 2010

Signal Watch Watches "The Big Heat"

Gloria Grahame cannot just come over to say "hi"

For Christmas Jason got me two Noir collections, and I kicked off watching them by, oddly, turning to the one movie I had previously seen, Fritz Lang's The Big Heat. I remembered having had watched this on cable a long time ago, that it had Gloria Grahame* and that I'd really liked it it, but I didn't remember: The Big Heat is a startlingly good movie, and not just in a "wow, that was a fun thing to watch" sort of way.

I don't think I need to tell anybody here that Fritz Lang knows how to put a movie together, but, holy smokes... if you're looking for a movie that fits together like the innards of a Swiss watch, its going to be tough to beat this one. Even the humdrum domestic situations shown are part of definite narrative and character arcs. And for a film from 1952, there's some pretty tough stuff that happens to all of our characters.

The movie follows the course of what happens when a good/ virtuous cop in a corrupt department investigates the suicide of a high-ranking police official. There's dames, gangsters, Lee Marvin, Glenn Ford and all kinds of good stuff in what's almost more a good cop thriller than true Film Noir.

Across the board, the actors playing our main characters put in solid performances.  Ford and Grahame have a lot of territory to cover from the start of their arcs to film's end, and you always believe them.  A young Lee Marvin shows signs of the ass-kicking Lee Marvin we'd all come to know and love.  Like a lot of Noir, but different from a lot of other movies of the era, the women in the movie are sharply written and are as much a part of the story as the men.

The Big Heat is a popular movie among a certain crowd, and so its no huge surprise that almost 60 years on its been imitated to the point where some of the shock value of the original is diluted.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't hold up to a viewing today.  And a darn good one at that.

Anyway, recommended.

Clark Kent's Dad will choke a lady for getting in his way!

*always a good reason to watch a movie


J.S. said...

Glad you liked it! Marry Christmas, Roundball!

The League said...

I stayed up way, way too late watching "The Sniper", as well. You have that review to look forward to.