THE BIG COMBO (1955) B/W 89m dir: Joseph H. Lewis
w/Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace, Robert Middleton, Lee Van Cleef, Earl Holliman, Helen Walker, Jay Adler, John Hoyt, Ted De Corsia, Helene Stanton,Roy Gordon, Whit Bissell, Steve Mitchell, Baynes Barron, James McCallion, Tony Michaels, Brian O'Hara, Rita Gould, Bruce Sharpe, Michael Mark, Philip Van Zandt, Donna Drew
A good film noir crime drama about policemen and their battle with the syndicate.
In Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, Carl Macek writes about THE BIG COMBO: "The head of a local mob, Mr. Brown [Conte], has thoroughly captivated a young society woman, Susan Lowell [Wallace]. Brown's entire setup is scrutinized by a zealous detective, Leonard Diamond [Wilde], who is obsessed with exposing Brown as a top mob financier while taking Susan away from him. ...
"There is a sense of fatalism and perverse sexuality found in The Big Combo that exists in few noir films. The relationship between Susan Lowell and Mr. Brown is a blending of fatalistic deference combined with a feeling of raw sexual abandon. Brown adores Susan's body. In one sequence, he brings her to the height of sexual excitement by worshipping her with lewd compliments and lavishing her entire body with kiss after kiss. Despite her sense of guilt, Susan resigns herself to this situation because of her own sexual dependence on Brown. Her eventual attempt at suicide and apparent rebirth at Diamond's insistence suggests no more than a weak effort to alter her amoral lifestyle. Beyond this obvious sexual exploitation, The Big Combo is filled with violence of a brutal and erotic nature. The homosexuality of Mingo [Holliman] and Fante [Van Cleef] is smothered in an atmosphere of murder and sadistic torture, as they refine the conventions of violence into a sexual ritual. Joseph H. Lewis's direction strongly points to a crude sexual bias throughout the film. Even Diamond appears to be sexually frustrated and compensating for impotence. Much in the same way as Lewis's classic Gun Crazy, there is an affinity between sex and violence; and the exploration of futility presents an ambiance strangely reminiscent of an earlier period of noir films, such as Scarlet Street and Woman in the Window. These attitudes combine with John Alton's photography to create a wholly defined film noir, as the striking contrasts between the black and white photography and Lewis's sexual overtones isolate The Big Combo's characters in a dark, insular universe of unspoken repression and graphic violence."