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The Big Combo (1955)

Richard Conte , Jean Wallace , Joseph H. Lewis  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Conte, Jean Wallace, Cornel Wilde, Brian Donlevy, Robert Middleton
  • Directors: Joseph H. Lewis
  • Writers: Philip Yordan
  • Producers: Cornel Wilde, Sidney Harmon, Walter Mirisch
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 1, 2000
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003XALW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,776 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Big Combo" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Raw and violent, steeped in the film noir tradition, this cult classic ventures into the seamy gangster underworld, oozing with seediness and low-life characters. Far ahead of its time, "The Big Combo" takes a dark, disturbing look at the battle between Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde), a good cop, and Mr. Brown (Richard Conte), a sadistic crime boss--and the cool blonde who gets caught in the middle (Jean Wallace, married to Wilde in real life at the time). With the help of the gangster's ex-girlfriend, Diamond is determined to bring down the cunning gangland kingpin. But the gangsters are ruthless. They savagely pummel Diamond and conduct gut-wrenchingly brutal acts of torture that were unusual on screen at the time of the film's release.

A prime example of the American film noir style that flourished during the 1940s and '50s, The Big Combo is now highly regarded as a stylistic milestone for its innovative use of deep shadows and harsh, singular light sources to define its visual strategy. This look is largely credited to the rule-breaking brilliance of cinematographer John Alton, who turns a standard plot of the era into a richly atmospheric experiment in visual invention. Ignoring conventional approaches to lighting, Alton defines the screen in terms of blackness, often framing characters as silhouettes cast in ominous grays or thick, roiling fogs. Moving from clarity to abstraction with masterful grades in between, Alton's trend-setting style has been celebrated by cinematographers since the film's release in 1955.

The film's plot keeps brisk pace with the visuals, focusing on the obsessive efforts of a tenacious detective (Cornel Wilde) to destroy a sadistic mobster (Richard Conte) whose vicious influence has nearly ruined the life of the woman (Jean Wallace) he keeps under his dark wing. Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman are nicely cast as the villain's toady henchmen, and Brian Donlevy's usual limitations serve him well as the humbled, frustrated kingpin who's been stifled by Conte's ambition. Director Joseph H. Lewis previously demonstrated his raw, stylistic vigor with the earlier cult favorite Gun Crazy, and here he's in peak form with a perfect match of subject and sensibility. The result is hard-boiled entertainment that still packs a punch. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Brown. September 25, 2002
By A Customer
Quentin Tarantino owes his career -- or what's left of it, anyway -- to Joseph L. Lewis' *The Big Combo*, from 1955. Fans of *Resevoir Dogs* will be surprised to see that the villain of the piece (a hissable Richard Conte) is named "Mr. Brown" (which was Tarantino's color-coded name in his own film). They will also be shocked to discover that Tarantino is something of a rip-off artist when they see the scene here where Conte and his goons torture a cop tied to a chair. In 1955, force-feeding someone booze, splashing it all over him, and cramming a hearing-aid into his ear with the other end attached to a radio was considered sufficient torture. In 1992, our sensibilities required the removal of the ear and splashes of gasoline. Progress. At any rate, my point is that *The Big Combo* was a very influential film noir among connoisseurs. It still packs a wallop. I take issue with the fellow from Canada below on several points. As for his sniping about the low budget here . . . yeah? So? If anyone can name a classic film noir that had an extravagant budget to play with -- with the possible exception of *Double Indemnity* -- I'd be interested to know about it. And my answer to his complaints about the dialogue is to suggest that perhaps he has confused *The Big Combo* with, well, *Double Indemnity*. I personally find the dialogue to be compact, lean and mean, and reasonably free of superfluous verbiage. (Unlike in Wilder's "classic", wherein insurance agents talk like lifelong Hell's Kitchen hoods, to say nothing of nattering voice-over narration.) There are certainly no page-long, single-space monologues in this movie. In any case, the absolutely stunning cinematography provided by the master John Alton should mute any misguided criticisms. Read more ›
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Masterpiece Remembered! April 7, 2000
First and foremost I would like to congratulate and say thank you very much to IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT for having the sense to make available a great overlooked, and underappreciated classic on VHS and DVD. "The Big Combo" is one of the best film noirs ever made, and one of the best films of the 1950s. It is one of the most brutal films both visually and in its depiction of the violence that lies beneath the surface of society. It also has many great performances by Richard Conte, Cornel Wilde, and Conte's two psychopathic aids Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman. This is definitely a must-see for either fans of dark, violent films, or for fans of great artistic films also. I congratulate, applaud, and thank very much, IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT for remembering and making "THE BIG COMBO" available on DVD and VHS as it should be. Here are some forgotten classics that aren't available on video or need a better transfer, that definitely should: NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), GUN CRAZY (1949), BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956), NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947), CRIME WAVE (1954), WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (1950), TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), EDGE OF DOOM (1950), SCARLETT STREET (1945), THE RED HOUSE (1947), DETOUR (1945), CAUGHT (1949), THE RECKLESS MOMENT (1948)
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (MR) BROWN'S REQUIEM April 18, 2000
Wow ! That's the kind of film noir I like. Firstly , the villain is really a villain. Richard - Mr Brown - Conte is the kind of bad guy you don't want to have against you. The way he uses a radio to torture the poor Cornel Wilde is...weird, it's the least one can say.
One also will recognize Lee Van Cleef, the future spaghetti star of the italian westerns of the 60's, in the role of a vicious bodyguard. And Jean Wallace as the fragile blond girlfriend of our vicious psychopath. And Brian Donleavy, the former mob boss, whose ear infirmity gives to director Joseph Lewis the opportunity to imagine a scene that is part of Movie History.
The quality of the DVD is above-average with very good images but no extras. Just a scene access.
A DVD for your library.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, Muscular Film Noir February 25, 2002
This is tough, muscular film noir delivered by a master of the genre, director Joseph Lewis, whose master touch in low budget mystery gave us the unforgettable "Gun Crazy." The camera work is excellent in this epic about a large city at night, when two obsessive men do battle for turf control, giving us a microscopic view of its fierce underbelly and the ferocious mobsters who tenaciously seek to control it.
Cornell Wilde is a tough, uncompromisingly honest cop who is belittle by his equally determined adversary, Richard Conte, for being so bright yet ending up with such a small paycheck at the end of the week. Wilde has two reasons for bringing down the cocky Conte, that earlier expressed of seeking to make the city a more decent place with the mobster's loss of influence. The other is that he holds a passionate love for the beautiful blonde controlled in such a tight vise by Conte that she attempts suicide. The blonde is Wilde's real life wife, Jean Wallace, and Wilde is determined to pull her away from the egomaniacally dominating Conte before she is destroyed.
For a large part of the film Conte laughs at Wilde, taunting him over his ineffectuality, telling him he is wasting his time attempting to put him away. This is largely a bluff, though, since he recognizes Wilde's zealousness and competence. At one point his henchmen kill a lovely young stripper going with the policeman, intending to terminate Wilde instead.
Wilde is able to crack the case when he learns about the existence of Conte's wife, thought to be dead, played by Helen Walker. When Wilde gets the goods on the mobster and is ready to arrest him Conte begs his adversary to kill him. Wilde will have none of it, telling Conte that he will instead be tried, convicted, and sent to prison, where he will be a man devoid of power. Wilde knows that this is a much sterner punishment to Conte than death by execution.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Noir Thrillers Ever
If only Olive's transfer quality on The Big Combo had lived up to the story line we would have had an amazing recommendation to offer. I'm torn here. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Nick Zegarac
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great...
I am sorry to say that my expectations were a bit higher for this film. It is not that it is bad, it just had the potential for great. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Rocky
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Blu-ray of good noir
Solid Blu-ray presentation of this very good (not great) noir. No extras at all on this disc, which personally doesn't bother me at all. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Usuallee
"The Big Combo"(1955) is one of the best film noirs of all time and it's arrival on Blu-ray from Olive Films should be a cause for celebration for not only film noir... Read more
Published 12 months ago by MICHAEL STODGHILL
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Combo Blu Ray Review
All us noir fans must applaud UCLA and the Film Foundation for the restoration and the magnificent just released blu ray of The Big Combo, one of the best film noirs ever made. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Phillip
5.0 out of 5 stars The Big Combo, A Film Noir Masterpiece
If you are a connoisseur of the black and white film noir movies of the 40's and 50's, The Big Combo is for you! Read more
Published 14 months ago by Carl Shine
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally!

At Last On Blu Ray, The Joseph h Lewis Film Noir Masterpiece "THE BIG COMBO"

Can't Wait For This One!
Published 15 months ago by Shane
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent fiml true film noir.....
Excellent movie will watch again... loved every second. This is film Noir... highly recommend well worth every cent. Acting is great!
Published 15 months ago by PEG876
5.0 out of 5 stars the big combo
great story line i would recomend this dvd to anyone who like flim noir ,movies good cast well acted crime movie thanks
Published 19 months ago by ellis j worden
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BIG DARK
Published 20 months ago by jimi
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