Monday, October 3, 2016

The Big Heat (1953)

Detective Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) is a cop that doesn’t play by the rules. When investigating the suicide of a fellow cop, he is told to back off. Not Dave Bannion. Back off isn’t in his vocabulary.

Big fan of Fritz Lang. M (1931) and Metropolis (1927) are wonderful films. Always liked Glenn Ford, too. And Gloria Grahame is one of my favorite Marilyn Monroe knockoffs. IMdb and Rotten Tomatoes both give The Big Heat very high rating, and I am more than a little confused by this. The story itself is fine. Cop investigates, gets too nosey, is burned, then the story is revealed. Been done a million times, and sometimes not as well. But oh, but the acting, it’s brutal. The dialog seems like it was written as a group project in a film-noir 101 class, and the over the top score beats us over our heads with the message. It's pretty cheesy.

A young Lee Marvin played the heavy. Blink and you'll miss a very young Carolyn Jones (Morticia in The Addams Family). Here, she’s a blond. Marlon Brando’s sister is also here. But let’s talk about Gloria, shall we?

Longtime readers may remember Grahame from such hits as The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), and small parts in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and Song of the Thin Man (1947). Eventually I will see her in a Lonely Place (1950) and maybe never in Oklahoma! (1955). She got this job as the babydoll floozy because Marilyn was too expensive. She didn’t get along too well in Hollywood, perhaps bristling over the stream of shallow sexpot roles she was offered, and quality work dried up.

Her personal life wasn’t much better. Her marriage to second husband Nicholas Ray may have been doomed when he found her in bed with his thirteen year old son. But don’t get the wrong idea, she made an honest man of the younger Ray when he later became her fourth husband. She ended up doing a lot of stage and TV work then died young of cancer. Cancer is a bitch.

The Big Heat isn’t terrible, but I am mystified by its reputation. It is over stylized in a bad way, almost laughable. When Bannion is having a touching moment with his family I don’t need the score to smother me with sentiment. I get it. Never-the-less, I won’t punish it for high expectations. AMRU 3.

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