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: The Big Combo (1955) Kinky Noir Masterpiece  ( 2712 )
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« : October 20, 2011, 06:48:02 AM »



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.


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.


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.


Brown (Conte)


"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.


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.


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.


Rita (Stanton)


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.


Ralph Bettini (Ted de Corsia)

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

Noirsville























continued....

« : February 03, 2018, 05:33:22 PM cigar joe »

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« #1 : October 20, 2011, 02:13:46 PM »

I'm half sure I reviewed it but, of course, can't find it with the search.   


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« #2 : October 20, 2011, 03:41:43 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

« : October 20, 2011, 03:45:36 PM cigar joe »

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« #3 : October 20, 2011, 05:34:45 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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« #4 : 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


« : December 09, 2016, 01:20:58 AM drinkanddestroy »

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« #5 : 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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« #6 : 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


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« #7 : 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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« #8 : 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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« #9 : 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.


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« #10 : 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


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« #11 : 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...

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« #12 : 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...

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« #13 : January 04, 2018, 10:06:19 AM »

Quote
The cinematography was just ok to me.

No, no, no. NO.


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« #14 : 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).

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