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The Big Heat

USA 1953. Dir: Fritz Lang. 90 min. DCP

Fritz Lang’s nihilistic 1950s noir raised screen violence to new heights — with, among other things, a notorious scene involving Lee Marvin as a psychopathic gangster, Gloria Grahame as a gun moll, and a pot full of scalding coffee! Gilda’s Glenn Ford is family-man Bannion, an honest cop serving on a corrupt police force in a Mob-controlled city. Investigating the death of a fellow officer, Bannion is ordered off the case by his superiors; his decision to ignore that order will have dire consequences. Lang opts for a spare, stripped-down, hard-as-nails approach, with stark cinematography, an economical narrative, terse dialogue, and minimal use of music. Grahame’s much-lauded performance may be a career-best. “The movie’s designed in light and shadows, and its underworld atmosphere glistens with the possibilities of sadism — this is a definitive film noir” (Pauline Kael).


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REVIEWS

"Fritz Lang's 1953 thriller retains its shocking power ... The film is drum-tight, directed with muscular clarity and force."

The Guardian | full review