Main Plot Points:
- Raw and violent, steeped in the film noir tradition, this cult classic ventures into the seamy gangster underworld, oozing with seediness and low-life characters.
- Far ahead of its time, The Big Combo takes a dark, disturbing look at the battle between Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde), a good cop, and Mr. Brown (Richard Conte), a sadistic crime boss – and the cool blonde who gets caught in the middle (Jean Wallace).
- With the help of the gangster’s ex-girlfriend, Diamond is determined to bring down the cunning gangland kingpin. But the gangsters are ruthless.
What We Thought:
- I had fond memories of The Big Combo, but alas, this revisit proved to be a bit of a disappointment.
- At best, this is a decent second tier film noir, with a few shining moments, a chilling bad guy and a couple of sharp lines (“It happens to be against two laws: God’s and Man’s. I’m booking her under the second.”)
- The complete lack of urgency drags the film down. There’s no compelling reason why the plot is initiated in the first place, and once it gets going it plods along, completely oblivious to the need for dramatic tension.
- Cornel Wilde’s lead performance seems almost bored at times. We’re told Diamond is obsessed with the gangster’s wife, but it’s never properly explained or established, merely stated by a character, and Wilde fails to make an impression as cop, lover, or heroic anchor.
- The primary reason to watch The Big Combo is John Alton’s daring black and white images. The cinematography here is simply OUTSTANDING. Everything you need to know about the film noir visual style is presented here. Just look at that final image – one of the most iconic noir shots of all time.
- The Blu-ray from Olive films is by far the best version of this film we’ve seen on home video. Unfortunately, despite claims that it’s been restored, the print is full of scratches and specks. It’s also got quite a few soft shots, but I don’t know if they’re due to optical enlargement or lack of proper elements. All in all, the film looks fairly rough.
- The Big Combo is a must-see film noir, due to the brutal torture scene, fascinating sexual innuendoes, and the stunning cinematography, but beyond that, frankly speaking, it’s a little dull.
- Nothing. The menu has a “play” and a “chapters” button. Disc is locked for region A.
Notable Cast & Crew:
- Cornel Wilde
- Richard Conte
- Jean Wallace
- Lee Van Cleef
- Joseph H. Lewis (Director)
- John Alton (Cinematographer)
Recommended if You Like:
- Film noir.
- Black and white movies.
- Cops vs. gangsters stories.