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Author Topic: The Big Combo (1955)  (Read 1516 times)
cigar joe
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« on: October 20, 2011, 07:48:02 AM »

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 its 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.

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


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 rollup 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 inuendos, 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."  Afro

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

discussion continues here http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg134791#msg134791

« Last Edit: October 20, 2011, 04:48:11 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 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.   

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« Reply #2 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, Afro

« Last Edit: October 20, 2011, 04:45:36 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #3 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.

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« Reply #4 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?  Evil


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!"  Afro


« Last Edit: December 09, 2016, 01:20:58 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #5 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

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« Reply #6 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.  Afro Afro Afro Afro Afro

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« Reply #7 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.

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« Reply #8 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.

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« Reply #9 on: Today at 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.

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« Reply #10 on: Today at 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):

 Afro

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« Reply #11 on: Today at 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...

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