THE BIG COMBO with introduction by Paul Karasik, New Yorker cartoonist

| 1955 | 87 mins | | ,
Joseph Lewis

Wednesday February 19, 2014


$12 General Admission, $9 Member,
$7 child age 14 or younger
Doors Open for admissions 30 min. prior to screening
Buy tickets at Film Center or online now BUY TICKETS

Joseph Lewis

Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace, Robert Middleton, Lee Van Cleef

“Undiscovered Noir”

Some of the best films of the 40s and 50s remain largely unknown. These are films that do not cater to please the masses.They were made by adults for adults, so they contain hardboiled adult themes about relationships: deceit, violence and loyalty and lust.

As a crack cinematographer, John Alton is one of the unsung geniuses of modern cinema. His name is synonymous with the look of film noir: luscious blacks and smoky grays.

“Raw Deal” (1948) and “The Big Combo” (1955) demonstrate how to make gorgeous and riveting films on a low budget.

These movies ain’t “arty” but they are “art”!
–New Yorker cartoonist, Paul Karasik

Police Lt. Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde) is criticized by his superior Capt. Peterson (Robert Middleton) for his obsessive but fruitless investigation of organized crime boss Mr. Brown (Richard Conte). Peterson calls it a waste of the taxpayers’ money motivated by Diamond’s love for Brown’s girlfriend Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace). Watched at all times by henchmen Mingo (Earl Holliman) and Fante (Lee Van Cleef), and masochistically drawn to Brown, Susan is unable to walk away from him. She overdoses on pills in a suicide attempt and, in her delirium, utters the name “Alicia.” Diamond follows up on that new lead, and as he gets closer to defeating his adversary, the arrogant and sadistic Brown retaliates by capturing and torturing Diamond. Meanwhile Brown’s former boss but now humiliated underling, Joe McClure (Brian Donlevy), believing that Brown has gone too far in his personal vendetta against Diamond, tries to enlist Mingo and Fante in overthrowing him. However, they remain loyal, and, in a chillingly silent scene visually punctuated by flashes of gunfire, they shoot the deaf McClure after Brown removes his hearing aid. Though superficially a story of good vs. evil, Joseph H. Lewis’s film noir presents a complex world, visually captured by John Alton’s stark photography, in which the lines between good/evil and love/hate are not always clear.

The Big Combo

"Where the usual noir takes place in a nightmare world, this one seems to inhabit a dream: there's no longer fear in the images, but rather a distanced, idealized beauty."

Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"It is done with grim melodramatics that are hard-hitting despite a rambling, not-too-credible plot, and is cut out to order for the meller fan who likes his action rough and raw."

Variety Staff, Variety

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