The Big Heat (1953) Fritz Lang


The Big Heat (1953) Fritz Lang (2x)
Twilight Time Blu-ray (1:29)


In the classic film noir era, they just don’t hit much harder and with as much vengeance as Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat. When a fellow police officer commits suicide, Detective Sergeant Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford, above right) smells something rotten. Pretty early in his investigation, Bannion learns that he’s ruffling some feathers in the criminal underworld, particularly those of mob boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby). Soon the dead cop’s wife is silenced, Bannion’s boss tells him to lay off, and Bannion starts getting threatening phone calls. But Bannion’s not the type to give up.


Lang shows us the contrasts between Bannion’s world of domestic innocence with his wife (Jocelyn Brando, Marlon’s sister) and child and the criminal world. Bannion seems to believe that his idyllic home life and the cruel streets of the city are two separate places, never intersecting. Lang, in fact, destroys that belief, violently, tragically, and unforgettably. No one who sees The Big Heat will ever forget what Lee Marvin (below left) does to Gloria Grahame’s (below center) face: it’s one of the most memorable events in film noir, if not film history itself.


Yet The Big Heat is not just a film noir focused on violence and revenge. It goes much deeper than that. Roger Ebert includes The Big Heat in his Great Movies list, pointing out (especially in his final paragraph) that once we start thinking about it, Lang has given us one of the darkest stories in film noir. Although Lang would directed four more films in America before ending his career in Germany, The Big Heat is generally considered his last great film. I know that I’ve told you very little about the film; I want you to experience it for yourself.


The new Twilight Time encore edition Blu-ray looks and sounds great. It would’ve been nice to have had more supplements, but the new edition includes much that the 2012 Twilight Time release did not, including brief comments by Michael Mann and Martin Scorsese, and a commentary track with film historians Lem Dobbs, Nick Redman, and  Julie Kirgo. Ported over from the previous release: liner notes by Julie Kirgo, the isolated musical score track, and the original theatrical trailer. For a comparison of the major DVD/Blu-ray releases of The Big Heat, visit DVD Beaver.


(Photos: Tucson MonthlyMoMATwenty Four FramesAnálise Indiscreta)

9 thoughts on “The Big Heat (1953) Fritz Lang

  1. Pingback: #117 The Big Heat – 1000 Films Blog

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