The Big Heat (1953)
Reviewed on 2011 June 29
Very dark noir movie about a human bulldozer of an uncorrupt cop going after a goodfella-type, guns blazing, and getting more than he bargained for.
Detective Sergeant Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford, nailing the hard-shell-hiding-a-soft-heart thing here) is called upon to investigate the suicide of one of their own. Tom Duncan supposedly shot himself, but Bannion suspects things aren’t what they seem. Duncan’s widow Bertha (Jeanette Nolan) seems awfully connected to Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby), the local Don Vito, and the other cops are suspiciously close-mouthed about the whole thing. When someone else who knew Tom tries to talk to Bannion and dies a horrible death (off-screen, but the description was pretty tough for 1953), Bannion is convinced something is very wrong.
This is as heavy, layered and good as you’d expect a Fritz Lang movie to be. It was pretty intense for something from before 1960, and I enjoyed watching it unfold. Lee Marvin was great as the conscience-free Vince Stone, and Gloria Grahame draws Violet Bick to her natural conclusion, had George Bailey abandoned Bedford Falls and let the place turn to Potter’s Acres. The dialogue is nicely brittle, and overall I can’t find any nits to pick here. Great flick.
Three chocolate morsels and a can of beer a la the ’50s.