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Other/Miscellaneous => Off-Topic Discussion => Topic started by: cigar joe on October 20, 2011, 07:48:02 AM



Title: The Big Combo (1955) Kinky Noir Masterpiece
Post by: cigar joe on October 20, 2011, 07:48:02 AM
(https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Dm0PDqEOZhY/WnMAklVEFkI/AAAAAAAAUfw/NaMYwQdAUBwWEvG1vpfwe9g9hqH-C4AAgCEwYBhgL/s400/big-combo-poster.jpg)

Directed by Joseph (H) Lewis (My Name Is Julia Ross (1945), So Dark the Night (1946), The Undercover Man (1949), Gun Crazy (1950). This was Lewis' last Classic Film Noir.

The film stars the usual noir suspects, Cornell Wilde, Brian Donlevy, Richard Conte, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Middleton, Earl Holliman, Ted de Corsia, Jay Adler, John Hoyt, along with Jean Wallace, Helene Stanton, and Helen Walker.

Director of photography was the great John Alton (Bury Me Dead (1947), T-Men (1947), Raw Deal (1948), Canon City (1948), The Amazing Mr. X (1948), Hollow Triumph (1948), He Walked by Night (1948), one of Noirsville's favorites The Crooked Way (1949), Border Incident (1949), Mystery Street (1950), The People Against O'Hara (1951), I, the Jury (1953), and another fave color Classic Noir Slightly Scarlet (1956). The film, consequently, is very dark and quite stylistically lighted as you would expect.

The screenplay was by Philip Yordan, who gave us Dillinger (1945), Whistle Stop (1946), The Chase (1946), House of Strangers (1949), Panic in the Streets (1950), Edge of Doom (1950), No Way Out (1950), Detective Story (1951), Joe MacBeth (1955), and The Harder They Fall (1956).

The has appropriately a both equally sleazy and jarring "Jazz Noir" score, with what sounds like an alto sax dominating the piece, was by David Raksin. There is also a film credit listing for Jacob Gimple as a piano soloist.

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The Manhattan fly by credit sequence

The film opens the piece with a fly-by of grimy, gritty, grid street lay out of 1950s Manhattan, New York City. All this was replaced just like Los Angeles' Bunker Hill whose soaring skyscrapers are it's modern tombstones. The "Big Apple" is less gritty now in the old Times Square, but apparently just as wormy as in the old days only it's spread out and hidden better.

Once the credit sequence of second unit or stock footage ends the rest of the film is shot with L.A. and studio sets filling in for NYC.

(https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-P5yvcRHX7Yo/WnObT5jL4PI/AAAAAAAAUk4/Xg8269Mq7d4Xed2H8CKVbdEbSe9P2mdcwCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B16.jpg)
Diamond (Wilde)

The story has a sort "Dirty Harry-esque," rouge cop M.O. The tale supposedly takes place in the 93rd Precinct, however there was no 93rd Precinct in 1955. The closest in numbers the 90th and the 94th are located in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Obsessed NYPD Police Detective Lt. Leonard Diamond (Wilde) is on the hunt for sharp dressed, rapidly staccato talking, sadistic, and carnal Brooklyn based mobster Brown (Conte) whose real Italian name is probably Marrone, Marrono or Maronna. Almost all the other goombah's in the Combo have Italian names. Marrone is Italian for Brown.

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Brown (Conte)

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"First is first and second is nobody!"

His oft repeated philosophy is "First is first and second is nobody!" Brown got strong enough to be capo by having Hate in his heart. His favorite form of persuading is using a hearing aid as a torture devise, using, what else, loud degenerate jazz music that features a "real crazy" drum solo. This is followed by a 40% alcohol hair tonic chaser.

Diamond has already spent $18,600 of taxpayer money surveilling one man Brown. He gets berated from Peterson his commanding officer. Diamond's defense is that it's not just one man but a "Combination", the Mob, basically. He get's told that he's fighting the swamp with a teaspoon. Diamond rambles convoluted-ly on telling us he's worried about "the High School kids who come into the city and get loaded and irresponsible, they lose their shirts, and they get a gun, and they're worried and wanna make up their losses, and a filling station attendant is dead with a bullet in his liver.... and I have to see four kids on trial for first degree murder...."  Yea, OBSESSED.

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Susan (Wallace)

He's also got a six month hard on for Brown's (Conte's) cute, cultured, blonde, chapping at the bit, bombshell, girlfriend Susan (Wallace). Jay Adler is Detective Sam Hill, Wilde's partner who shadows both Susan, and the two slightly "light in the loafer" escorts Mingo (Earl Holliman) and Fante (Lee Van Cleef). Brown employs these two skells to escort Susan about town. He must figure they are more interested in screwing each other than Susan or women in general. Forgedaboudit, these crooks are all made out in best 50s fashion, to be the lowest of the low degenerates.

(https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-gHCSeQKGKb0/WnObRQiPjrI/AAAAAAAAUko/VuQDBS57ldc5IAH1DGN-QWHRU-kkQ5hKwCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B11.jpg)
Fante (Van Cleef), Susan, Mingo (Holliman)

Police Capt. Peterson (Robert Middleton) tells him in the best Noir subtext to forget basically "the slut" Susan, pointing out to  Diamond she spent a lot of time "days....and nights" going around the block and around the world with Brown.

Unsubtly later, Susan enforces this when in a night club she tells a former friend of the family that, she no longer plays the piano, now a days all she plays is "stud poke-her".... and probably the skin flute too. Later on she tells Brown she's wearing what she's wearing instead of white because "white" doesn't suit her anymore.

Helene Stanton plays a statuesque, voluptuous, brunette burlesque dancer Rita (a sort of a Marie Windsor look-a-like) who is stuck on Diamond. Diamond seems to be just using her for sex.

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Rita (Stanton)

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

Wilde really needs to see a shrink, he doesn't know a good thing when he sees it, but he also becomes overly obsessed with saving "soiled" dove Susan.

McClure (Donlevy) is Brown's second banana who he inherited when he took over the racket from Grassi who left suddenly for Sicily. Jay Adler plays Diamond's partner Detective Sam Hill.  Helen Walker appears rather late in the film as Brown's ex-wife Alicia Brown.

When Diamond first hears about Alicia after Susan takes an overdose of sleeping pills, he rounds up all of Browns known associates and again gets called to the carpet for making 67 false arrests. Ted de Corsia is almost unrecognizable in a nice cameo as the broken English speaking Combo man on the lamb, Ralph Bettini.

(https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-yIOlF1mrZgs/WnObjIg1GnI/AAAAAAAAUkw/jm8ZLoI3VH4jQkKWE5u1igjA_OpiS95kQCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B49.jpg)
Ralph Bettini (Ted de Corsia)

The quest to find Alicia eventually sends Brown off to Noirsville.

Noirsville

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(https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_gssrVBIBN0/WnObkCkJWyI/AAAAAAAAUks/pWvcV3lktEQqOGuzwW-O3baA5POyGdHAQCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B53.jpg)

(https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hSifDiu0lsQ/WnObgUZBbWI/AAAAAAAAUk4/Fi5PwXbYOmk57PJZOSe7hlxGNcuCWvv2QCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B41.jpg)

(https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-EXwszejCt8w/WnObcQ_lIbI/AAAAAAAAUko/OZP8ITtuSPoH8o1Zi_pK6lojfWLvlGrhgCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B33.jpg)

(https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-kLRd-IhLAIw/WnObm9gVOeI/AAAAAAAAUk4/iRdJ1TzISXQI5B6pDYc7bc1YGEnTYawNwCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B63.jpg)

(https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-gT2F_wl2VzA/WnObh-OQAgI/AAAAAAAAUko/Hhu2zyGvJRcG1_SZ_ES9dEovbOm1QS3BgCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B45.jpg)

(https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-fISoemQfOQQ/WnObrJUhQyI/AAAAAAAAUks/n28TLXLlaJEbPtBv04w3oFMoivT-tw9ygCEwYBhgL/s640/The%2BBig%2BCombo%2B75.jpg)

continued....


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: titoli on October 20, 2011, 03:13:46 PM
I'm half sure I reviewed it but, of course, can't find it with the search.   


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: cigar joe on October 20, 2011, 04:41:43 PM
I'm half sure I reviewed it but, of course, can't find it with the search.  

You did.... follow the link at the bottom of the first post and the subsequent ones to yours, O0


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Novecento on October 20, 2011, 06:34:45 PM
This is something I would love to see restored on Blu-ray by Criterion or the like. Some great John Alton work in this.


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on December 09, 2016, 01:18:41 AM
I just saw this movie for the first time.



The movie is, quite simply, atrocious. It's so terrible that in actually enjoyed it somewhat. When there is a big, lavish production and the movie is bad and therefore so amusing.

[NOTE: I should point out that I saw the movie on a screwed-up stream with terrible picture quality. I later realized that there was something wrong with the stream. The bad picture quality that I saw could not have helped my opinion of the movie. But, no matter the picture quality, this is a terrible movie]

If you are like CJ and all you care about is a scantily clad woman, a red-light district, and a foggy/shadowy shot, yeah, go ahead and give crap  a 9/10 (I can't imagine what Out of the Past or Double Indemnity get. 100/10? 1000/10?  >:D


I generally love Richard Conte, but this is the first movie I've seen him in that I didn't like his performance. He is not speaking normally, in his normal voice. He's using this weird voice trying to sound super cool or super creepy, but it is just super weird and he is obvious, unnaturally, trying to act, instead of just being himself, results in a disappointing performance.

Brian Donlevy was always a nothing; just an average actor who somehow seems to have once upon a time been a star. Makes no sense. But in this movie, I finally enjoyed watching him – cuz instead of trying to play a slick, cool, character, he is playing a pathetic loser, which is exactly what he is. He is perfect for this role – I mean this for real, no tongue in cheek.

Jean Wallace is one of the most annoying actresses I have ever seen in any movie ever. Ever. Every time she opens her mouth makes me want to scream.
Cornel Wilde, same idea, though a little less extreme. A nobody, a nothing, an awful voice, awful way of speaking, did not enjoy one second of his screen time.

Robert Middleton plays Wilde's captain, who does nothing but question Wilde's every move. (Th only surprise in this movie is that Middleton is NOT on Conte's payroll; I was certain that he was on Conte's payroll, cuz he does nothing all movie long but try to sabotage Wilde's investigations.

Helen Walker is crap.

All I remember about Helen Stanton (Rita) is that whereas I cringed every time some of the other characters opened their mouths, that was not the case with her. So she was alright.

Lee Van Cleef was the best thing about this movie. Earl Holliman, for probably the only time in his life, actually did not annoy me.

The cheapness of this movie is hilarious: The scene in the "airport," is obviously just a fog machine in a warehouse with a sign that says "Private Airport." Gave me a good laugh.

So yeah, the movie has an inconic shot in the fog. That's all. So, if you're like CJ, a scantily clad babe, a red-light district, and noir shadows make for an all-time classic. If you're like me, and prefer to have actors that I enjoy seeing and who don't make want to scream in agony, this movie is shit. Hilarious shit. Actually, one thing I get a great kick out of: At the end, when Conte pulls Donlevy's hearing aide out of his ear, and all suddenly goes quiet, I felt like screaming "THANK YOU!"  O0



Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on December 09, 2016, 01:21:16 AM
The full movie is available in full, in a nice, clear picture, on YouTube:

here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIkCXF9Y4ow  

and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuWokTKOMWg


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: cigar joe on December 09, 2016, 04:55:00 PM
A scantily clad babe, a red-light district, and noir shadows make for an all-time classic.  O0 O0 O0 O0 O0


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Novecento on December 12, 2016, 09:01:16 AM
[NOTE: I should point out that I saw the movie on a screwed-up stream with terrible picture quality. I later realized that there was something wrong with the stream. The bad picture quality that I saw could not have helped my opinion of the movie. But, no matter the picture quality, this is a terrible movie]

I actually think this would make a huge difference. John Alton's work deserves a good quality image and is the film's biggest selling point for me.


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: drinkanddestroy on December 12, 2016, 04:45:20 PM
I actually think this would make a huge difference. John Alton's work deserves a good quality image and is the film's biggest selling point for me.

Maybe I'll give it a re-watch in a few years. I can't stand the thought of having to listen to that woman again, the main woman, Conte's girlfriend. She is soooo bad. Also the main male character. And his captain. Awful.
Maybe I should watch Alton's  cinematography on mute.


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: XhcnoirX on December 12, 2017, 06:05:47 AM
Watched the UK blu-ray of 'The Big Combo' last night (I imagine the US blu-ray from Olive has the same scan)... It's been a few years since I last watched this one, but what the blu-ray makes crystal clear is that it's not without reason that John Alton got his own title card in this movie. His work here is impeccable, gorgeous cinematography. Worth watching just for his ability to make shadows come alive. But I think this movie is a topshelf noir from start to finish.
I agree with CJ, this movie has it all. It's dark, it's kinky, it's sadistic, it's pure noir. To me this movie is a throwback to the stylized, ambiguous noirs of the 40s, instead of the more 'realistic' and procedural-oriented noirs of the 50s.

If there's a negative, it's Jean Wallace, both the actress and her character don't really fit the movie. She's not the greatest actress ever and one wonders what the suave and confident Mr. Brown (Richard Conte at his best) ever saw in her character in the first place, let alone keep her by his side for 4 years. Or why Wilde would obsess over her while keeping the way sexier, and more sympathetic, burlesque dancer Helene Stanton at bay (but close enough for some hanky panky when needed)...

Im looking forward to diving into the commentary track and other extra's soon...

In regards to it kinkiness, Wilde certainly thought it was too sexually charged (from http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,59141,00.html):
Quote
Lewis loved to talk about the time Wilde (who also served as the film's associate producer) attempt to have him fired from the film. Speaking at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1998, Lewis noted that Wilde was furious over a scene in which Conte kisses Jean Wallace (Wilde's wife at the time) and then disappears down below camera range, resulting in Wallace looking especially aroused. In the end, Lewis kept his job on the film — but one can't help but think that he included this bit of implied oral sex for no other reason than to infuriate his uptight star.


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: cigar joe on December 12, 2017, 03:13:48 PM
Watched the UK blu-ray of 'The Big Combo' last night (I imagine the US blu-ray from Olive has the same scan)... It's been a few years since I last watched this one, but what the blu-ray makes crystal clear is that it's not without reason that John Alton got his own title card in this movie. His work here is impeccable, gorgeous cinematography. Worth watching just for his ability to make shadows come alive. But I think this movie is a topshelf noir from start to finish.
I agree with CJ, this movie has it all. It's dark, it's kinky, it's sadistic, it's pure noir. To me this movie is a throwback to the stylized, ambiguous noirs of the 40s, instead of the more 'realistic' and procedural-oriented noirs of the 50s.

If there's a negative, it's Jean Wallace, both the actress and her character don't really fit the movie. She's not the greatest actress ever and one wonders what the suave and confident Mr. Brown (Richard Conte at his best) ever saw in her character in the first place, let alone keep her by his side for 4 years. Or why Wilde would obsess over her while keeping the way sexier, and more sympathetic, burlesque dancer Helene Stanton at bay (but close enough for some hanky panky when needed)...

Im looking forward to diving into the commentary track and other extra's soon...

In regards to it kinkiness, Wilde certainly thought it was too sexually charged (from http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,59141,00.html):

 O0


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Moorman on December 12, 2017, 06:23:06 PM
Watched the UK blu-ray of 'The Big Combo' last night (I imagine the US blu-ray from Olive has the same scan)... It's been a few years since I last watched this one, but what the blu-ray makes crystal clear is that it's not without reason that John Alton got his own title card in this movie. His work here is impeccable, gorgeous cinematography. Worth watching just for his ability to make shadows come alive. But I think this movie is a topshelf noir from start to finish.
I agree with CJ, this movie has it all. It's dark, it's kinky, it's sadistic, it's pure noir. To me this movie is a throwback to the stylized, ambiguous noirs of the 40s, instead of the more 'realistic' and procedural-oriented noirs of the 50s.

If there's a negative, it's Jean Wallace, both the actress and her character don't really fit the movie. She's not the greatest actress ever and one wonders what the suave and confident Mr. Brown (Richard Conte at his best) ever saw in her character in the first place, let alone keep her by his side for 4 years. Or why Wilde would obsess over her while keeping the way sexier, and more sympathetic, burlesque dancer Helene Stanton at bay (but close enough for some hanky panky when needed)...

Im looking forward to diving into the commentary track and other extra's soon...

In regards to it kinkiness, Wilde certainly thought it was too sexually charged (from http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,59141,00.html):

Lee Van Cleef in another noir? I got to check this out...


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Moorman on January 03, 2018, 06:02:55 PM
I wanted to see this because of Lee Van Cleef. I got a DVD version.  I think the movie had potential, but it came up short.  The cinematography was just ok to me.  The plot was simple.  Brown's girlfriend was out of place in this movie and hampered it big time.  Overall, the movie just didn't measure up.

Cinematography- 1 point.

Musical Score -1.5 points.

Acting-1 point.

Directing-1 point.

Plot-1 point.

5.5 points out of 10...


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Jessica Rabbit on January 04, 2018, 10:06:19 AM
Quote
The cinematography was just ok to me.

No, no, no. NO.


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Novecento on January 04, 2018, 11:42:13 AM
Moorman, out of curiosity what are you criteria for good cinematography? I know the question is a little oblique, but along with "Chinatown" on another thread, you've just dismissed the two films that are possibly the most iconic films of the two "John Al..." cinematograhers (John Alton and John Alonzo).


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Jessica Rabbit on January 04, 2018, 03:16:30 PM
Adding my support also.

Made in 1955 by Poverty Row studio Allied Artist (Monogram’s banner for their upgraded products) on a paltry budget, The Big Combo garnered mediocre reviews upon its release. The contemporary NYTimes review went so far as to call the picture “a shrill, clumsy and rather old-fashioned crime melodrama” and “a sputtering, misguided antique.” Harsh words for a movie that is considered a classic now, and not at all justified either. But then we have the benefit of hindsight.
By 1955 the Noir cycle was coming to an end. The 50s saw Expressionist visual poetry be replaced by a more realistic semi-documentary approach with emphasis on natural lighting. Combo is a throwback, it’s one of the last great 40s Noirs, made in the 50s.

One of the stars of Combo is John Alton’s brilliant photography. He gives us a masterclass on Noir style, utilizing his entire Noir bag of tricks. Deep shadows, high contrast lighting, dimly lit back alleys, canted angles and sets that are near empty, oftentimes just semi-realistic and seemingly lit only by cigarette butts. Alton turned a buck fifty budget into a virtue, creating a surreal dreamy mood piece that is visually one of the last pure Noirs. The deserted corridors of the boxing arena shrouded in darkness and the empty concert house for the piano recital are almost stripped to the bones abstractions.

Cornel Wilde stars as Leonard Diamond, a cop with one mission in life: to take down untouchable kingpin Mr. Brown (Richard Conte). He’s not just single-minded about it, he’s a man obsessed. His zeal borders on fanatic. Diamond is on a crusade. Caught in the middle between the two men is Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace), Brown’s moll, who Diamond has the hots for. But Susan seems to be completely under Brown’s spell…

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis, Combo is a movie that’s decidedly character-driven. It’s brimming with fascinating characters. The plot is negligible. Cop hunts robber. We’ve seen it all before. It’s probably why the NYT considered it stale. They just neglected to dig a little deeper and took it all at face value.
Lewis’ last movie Gun Crazy didn’t separate between sex and violence, in Combo it’s sex and power that seem to be interchangeable. Really, the whole movie is about sex, sex and more sex. Everybody’s demons seem to rest on it. It’s all not-so-discreet.
Combo is a movie about obsessions. Brown is obsessed with power, Diamond is obsessed with Brown and his moll, Susan is obsessed with kinky sex. There’s an incredible seediness and perversity about it all. The twisted love triangle, or quadrangle, of the protagonists is something any shrink would have a field day with.

It is Richard Conte who carries the movie. Unfailingly suave, vicious, without conscience and an arrogance that knows no bounds, Mr. Brown is obsessed with power and always being No.1: “First is first and second is nobody” is his maxim. He gives the audience a little lesson on his personal philosophy. Hate. It’s life’s great motivator:

“What makes the difference? Hate…Hate the man who tries to kill you. Hate him until you see red and you come out winning the big money. The girls will come tumbling after.”

Brown drops a boxer he’d backed when the kid loses a fight, simply because he lacks that all-important killer instinct. He despises most people including his insecure second-in-command - and former boss - Joe McClure (Brian Donlevy), who he continuously humiliates mercilessly as a “little man”. Nobody is allowed to stand in Brown’s way and whoever does must die.

Hate is what keeps Brown warm at night…and his mistress Susan. Brown is quite proud of his prowess with women. Susan used to be a high society girl with ambitions to become a concert pianist. She would love to go back to that life, but instead she’s been sinking further into the gutter quite frankly because sex with Brown is so good! The movie leaves no doubt that Brown holds Susan in an erotic thrall. Brown is a sadist, he literally owns Susan. When she’s not with him he has her shadowed. She’s sexually drawn to Brown despite his  possessiveness. Or maybe just because of it. Brown has her emotionally and sexually hypnotized. THAT way-ahead-of-its-time love scene - suggesting oral sex -  with Susan’s ecstatic face leaves no doubt about it.
The PCA collectively had a conniption and wanted the scene cut, but Lewis steadfastly maintained that there was no proof of any sexual activity. It was all in the censors’ dirty minds.
Susan despises herself for her weakness. She can’t admit why exactly she stays with Brown. She doesn’t need to, we get the message anyway.

Brown has the obsessive Diamond pegged alright. With uncanny psychological insight he lays a finger on what keeps Diamond up at night. Hiding behind a facade of righteousness is a man eaten up by jealousy:

“Diamond, the only trouble with you is you’d like to be me.  You’d like to have my organization, my influence, my fix. You can’t. That’s impossible. You think it’s money. It’s not. It’s personality. You haven’t got it, Lieutenant – you’re a cop. Slow, steady, intelligent…With a big yen for a girl you can’t have.”

Brown has everything, Diamond only has dumpy digs and $96.50 a week. There is something incredibly impotent about Diamond’s rage against Brown. Diamond has been spending several months’ pay to trail Susan around the country for six months, ostensibly in order to catch Brown. She isn’t even aware of his existence! It’s less the cop’s sense of justice that makes him hunt the mobster, Diamond’s private vendetta rests purely on his personal libido problem. He may not want to admit it to himself, but this is his true motivator for putting Brown behind bars. Actually, if Diamond could, he’d rather castrate Brown than lock him up. It’s a seriously twisted set-up.

Diamond is not only humorless, he’s a self-righteous prick to boot. He lays the moralizing on really thick: ”You think this is mink, Miss Lowell…These are the skins of human beings, Miss Lowell!”. Frankly, Brown may be a sadist killer, but he’s at least not a sanctimonious hypocrite. I rooted for him.
Diamond however isn’t quite as straight-laced and upright as he would like to have the world believe. He’s in a sort of “relationship” with a sexy stripper, make that burlesque dancer, that would now be called friends with benefits. Rita is clearly in love with him, she’d like to be something more than the occasional booty call. She is wise beyond her years and has more honest insight into human relationships than anybody else in the film. She tells Diamond outright: “A woman doesn’t care how a man makes his living. Only how he makes love.”
Helen Stanton is phenomenal in a small role that could easily have been just another cliched variation on the hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold. She infuses Rita with a genuine integrity that all the other characters seem to lack. In the most upsetting scene of the movie Rita gets killed in a hit in Diamond’s apartment in a case of mistaken identity. The bullets were for him. Diamond tries to show some kind of regret after her death. “I treated her like a pair of gloves” he says. But it doesn’t sound very sincere. Susan is all that’s on his mind. The guy doesn’t know how good he has it. Rita has Susan beat on every level.

Cornel Wilde was an actor of limited range, he was always rather stiff and wooden and is really no match for Conte. But if Wilde was a limited actor, Jean Wallace - as the good girl gone bad - was no actress at all. She was Wilde’s real-life wife and that’s the reason she got cast. She’s pretty but rather vapid, spineless and without much personality. It’s hard to believe she has two men fighting over her. She isn’t a femme fatale either. She doesn’t have the guts for it.

Oddly enough, there’s only one healthy relationship in the movie. The one between the two gay henchmen Fante and Mingo (Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman) who are an strangely likable pair for all their brutality and ruthlessness. They are inseparable, loyal to each other and live in happy self-contained domesticity.

Combo has quite a few memorable scenes, like Brown’s subtle negotiation tactics which include Diamond’s torture by hearing aid and hair tonic.
Also the chilling execution scene of Brown’s lieutenant McClure. Brown informs the deaf man that he won't have to hear the gun fire that’ll kill him. He yanks out McClure's hearing aid and the soundtrack goes silent simultaneously. We see the gun fire but can only hear what McClure can hear, nothing.  

The finale is a riff on Casablanca. In a hangar shrouded in thick fog, Diamond finally has Brown cornered. It is Susan who is Brown’s downfall. She shines a big spotlight on him, thus exposing him and figuratively his sins. Like a vampire, Brown is disorientated. Diamond doesn’t even mercifully kill him, Brown is being dragged away by two policemen, finally transformed into a nobody.
Diamond and Susan venture out onto the airfield together, beautifully silhouetted against the swirling fog. Susan has finally freed herself of him.


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Moorman on January 04, 2018, 06:39:08 PM
Moorman, out of curiosity what are you criteria for good cinematography? I know the question is a little oblique, but along with "Chinatown" on another thread, you've just dismissed the two films that are possibly the most iconic films of the two "John Al..." cinematograhers (John Alton and John Alonzo).

Good question. Let me clarify what i look for, personally, in good cinematography. I place a emphasis on the LOOK of the final product. The film's clarity and depth, whether its black and white or color. I don't place as much premium on film technique, whether its camera angles, movement, lighting etc. I KNOW those things are important, its just not a premium with me.  So, what may be  good, average or bad to me, may be the opposite to someone else.  I'll use this shot of Casablanca to show what i look for:

(http://i63.tinypic.com/c02df.jpg)


The Big Combo, though it had a lot of great film techniques in it, appeared too shallow for me.

(http://i65.tinypic.com/sfvtab.jpg)


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Novecento on January 06, 2018, 11:23:07 AM
So do you not really appreciate anything shot anamorphically where cinematographers often sacrifice depth of field?


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Moorman on January 07, 2018, 08:36:40 AM
So do you not really appreciate anything shot anamorphically where cinematographers often sacrifice depth of field?

Show me a example of what you are talking about...


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955)
Post by: Novecento on January 08, 2018, 05:48:40 PM
"Citizen Kane", of which I assume you love the cinematography, is celebrated for its deep focus so everything in the background is very crisp and clear. With anamorphic lenses, the foreground tends to separate cleanly from the background. A random example from Michael Mann's "Heat":

(https://img.wennermedia.com/article-leads-horizontal/rs-220194-heat-opener.jpg)

There is also distortion associated with anamoprhic lenses which is often used to great creative effect. An example from Scorsese's "Silence:

(https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*bO2n-Z5ruVDpvPTEgy9nHw.jpeg)


Title: Re: The Big Combo (1955) Kinky Noir Masterpiece
Post by: cigar joe on February 03, 2018, 05:36:19 PM
Original review continued..... from OP

Its a gritty, violent film noir that shows some surprising sparks of style. Watch for McClure's silent rub out.

Wilde is such an overly obsessive self-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 so keep an ear out for Wilde's classic Noir line about Rita, "Saks Fifth Avenue. . . She came to see me in her best shoes."

Conte is just as obsessed with both 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 circles and arrows to figure out where "things" are going.... and according to the story they have been going on for about four years.

Conte's Brown, is arguably, one of his most memorable characters.

A very 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, a Femme Fatale, sexual innuendos, stylistic lighting and again McClure's (Donlevy) 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).

One of my favorites, 9/10.