Thursday, May 31, 2012

THE BIG COMBO (1955) - Joseph H. Lewis

Possibly, the most satisfying noir I've seen all month. Definitely, the best photographed.

Cornel Wilde plays a hamstrung detective trying to bring down syndicate boss Mr. Brown (a brilliantly loathsome Richard Conte) on an antiquated murder charge. He's not sure exactly how it fits, but knows has something to do with "Alicia, Alicia, Alicia..." There are great performances across the board, including Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as Mr. Brown's two closeted goons. But it's John Alton's lush high-contrast images that really steal the show. The torture-by-hearing-aid scene's a doozy, right up there with Marathon Man's "Is it safe?" dental interrogation. On the Nigel Tufnel scale, The Big Combo definitely goes to 11.

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