The Big Combo (1955)

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Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Written by Philip Yordan
1955/USA
Security Pictures/Theodora Pictures
Repeat viewing/Amazon Prime

 

Mr. Brown: Diamond, the only trouble with you is, you’d like to be me. You’d like to have my organization, my influence, my fix. You can’t, it’s impossible. You think it’s money. It’s not. It’s personality. You haven’t got it. You’re a cop. Slow. Steady. Intelligent. With a bad temper and a gun under your arm. With a big yen for a girl you can’t have. First is first and second is nobody.

 

As far as I am concerned, this is up there with Out of the Past in epitomizing all that is film noir.

Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) runs a crime syndicate.  He ruthlessly took it over from a former crime lord and his own immediate boss Joe McClure (Brian Donlevy).  Despite a decided lack of success so far, he is being doggedly pursued by detective Leonard Diamond.  It seems that it is almost impossible to pin anything on Mr. Brown and Diamond’s own boss warns him off the case.  But Diamond carries on, not least because he is in love with Brown’s blonde girlfriend Susan (Jean Wallace).  For her part, Susan’s life disgusts her so much that she attempts suicide as the story opens.

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Mr. Brown is fascinating in his sophisticated evil-doing and keeps getting away with murder while he takes revenge against Diamond in numerous ways.  But Diamond is equally stubborn, if not more so.

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This movie has everything.  John Alton’s low-key cinematography is perfection.  The acting, particularly Conti’s, is excellent and the dialogue is about as hard-boiled as you can get.  We also get memorable performances by Earl Holiman and Lee Van Cleef as two hit men who are just a bit too fond of each other.  This is a gritty and violent film that may even surpass Lewis’s other film noir classic, Gun Crazy.  Highly recommended and currently available on YouTube.

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