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The Big Knife (1955)

Jack Palance , Ida Lupino , Robert Aldrich  |  NR |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger
  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Writers: Clifford Odets, James Poe
  • Producers: Robert Aldrich
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: October 15, 2002
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006FDAT
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,638 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Big Knife" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Academy Award® winners* Jack Palance, Rod Steiger and Shelley Winters deliver knockout performances in this vicious "poison-pen letter to the movie business" (American Cinematheque)that's an extreme close-up of greed, lust and murder! Hollywood superstar Charlie Castle (Palance) has it all except a way out. When he tries to leave show business, his tyrannical studio boss Stanley Hoff (Steiger) blackmails him with a lethal, covered-up secret that could land him in jail. A loose-lipped starlet (Winters) also knows too much, and when she starts talking, Hoff plans murder. Now Charlie is more cornered than everon the brink of losing his wealth, his power and his soul. *Palance: Supporting Actor, City Slickers (1991); Steiger: Actor, In the Heat of the Night (1967); Winters: Supporting Actress, A Patch of Blue (1965), Supporting Actress, The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"The Big Knife" is based on the Clifford Odets play of the same name, adapted for the screen by James Poe and directed by Robert Aldrich. The film is not very cinematic. It is essentially a play that has been filmed. It takes place almost exclusively on one set -a Bel Air living room, the dialogue is mannered, and the performances are often histrionic. This is Clifford Odets, and it's melodrama. The dialogue tends to purple but is certainly intriguing. It's not a natural adaptation of Odets, like 1952's "Clash By Night", which was transformed into a real work of cinema by director Fritz Lang. The actors sometimes deliver Odets' heavy dialogue naturally and casually; other times they go over the top. Moments of high drama are punctuated by drum rolls. Sometimes it seems that director Robert Aldrich should have interpreted the play more cinematically or more realistically for the silver screen, but I suppose that is a matter of taste. "The Big Knife" succeeds on the strength of its performances, which are almost universally excellent.

"Charlie Castle is a man who sold out his dreams, but he can't forget them." Charlie (Jack Palance) is a movie star who made it big under contract to Hoff Federated studios, owned by unscrupulous megalomaniac Stanley Hoff (Rod Steiger). Charlie's wife Marion (Ida Lupino) has threatened to leave him should he renew his contract with Hoff. She can't stand the way that inane movies and virtual imprisonment have turned her once-idealistic husband into a spiritless toady. But Charlie isn't free to do as he pleases, because Hoff holds incriminating information over him. Charlie was in a drunken car accident, for which a friend and studio employee took the blame.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Red Neon Lights and Drunken Blackbirds February 22, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
The corn is as high as a movie star's eye in the yammer-yammer-yammer of Clifford Odets's Hollywood play THE BIG KNIFE, and Robert Aldrich's bristling film version can't do much to open up the talkfest. But there's some fascinating stuff here. For starters, the model for Jack Palance's cornered movie star is obviously John Garfield, but Odets seems to use the character as a mouthpiece for why he himself had failed to live up to his spectacular beginnings on Broadway. The country of those who have sold out is familiar territory to Odets, and scattered in lots of very purple prose lie nuggets of sharply-observed writing. The players know the terrain, too, and they tear into their roles with gusto. Palance, Ida Lupino, and Miss Shelley Winters (what's with her billing here?) are all marvelous, and Rod Steiger is jawdroppingly good. This is the 50's, remember, when George Stevens (held up here as a model of "meaningful" filmmaking) gave us the ultra-waspy Millie Perkins as Anne Frank, which makes Steiger's Jewish inflections and rhythms in an exceedingly unsympathetic role a risky, but very rewarding, choice. (Hollywood had generally taken the guts and the ethnicity out of Odets, as per the very denatured film of GOLDEN BOY.) When Steiger gets into gear, you can't take your eyes off him. Special kudoes, too, to Jean Hagen. Those who only remember her in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN are in for a shock. Playing a drunken, masochistic adulteress, she manages to be simultaneously childlike, sexy, pathetic and chilling. Good support from dependables like Ilka Chase, Wesley Addy, and Wendell Corey, too. Really worth a look.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deep in the Dark 1950s March 2, 2001
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
For anyone like myself who has a fondness for the darker 1950s productions like Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success or Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, this movie--which might well have been called Faust in Bel Air--is an absolute must. Robert Aldrich was a perfect director for this kind of material, although The Big Knife--most of whose action takes place on a single set--is less kinetic than his earlier Kiss Me Deadly. Two great movies, Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and George Cukor's A Star Is Born, had already wickedly dissected the less glamorous side of life in the movie industry, but The Big Knife not only presents a far gloomier view of Hollywood, but makes the backstage intrigues of the motion picture capital into a metaphor for the rampant political paranoia of Cold War era America. The movie is based on a 1949 play by Clifford Odets--who had himself named names to HUAC in order to continue working in the movies--about an actor being blackmailed by a Mephistophelean producer, but when Aldrich and James Poe transferred the drama into the context of the middle 1950s, no halfway knowledgeable viewer could have missed the analogy to the blacklist--particularly since the movie depicts the producer, brilliantly played by Rod Steiger, as a vicious reactionary in the mold of L.B. Mayer who worships General Douglas MacArthur. In addition, The Big Knife may also be seen as a reply to Kazan's On the Waterfront, which glorified an informer--and tacitly rationalized the director's own collaboration with HUAC--by showing its hero choosing to commit suicide rather than capitulate to the evil Steiger. As the other reviews note, the performances are all remarkable, but I was especially impressed by Shelley Winters as a would-be starlet. She only has one extended scene, but that alone is more than worth the price of the video, which is ridiculously low-priced.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
Published 7 months ago by ARMAND DUVAL
5.0 out of 5 stars A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
This movie has long been one of my top 100. It has a wonderful cast of actors that each had a long list of outstanding performances on stage and screen. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dusty Rhodes
3.0 out of 5 stars Old Hollywood
Hollywood has apparently always subscribed to the notion that there is no such thing as bad publicity and the film under review, The Big Knife, which derides the old time pre-1950s... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Alfred Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the Broadway production
I ordered this DVD after seeing the very disappointing Broadway show. This vintage movie is so much better. Jack Palance is so sexy and powerful as the star. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Ruby Dartz
4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Knife
Unusual story with a great cast....Palance and Steiger are powerful.....however, movie was shot in a stage setting with most of the
action taking place in the same large... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ronald G. Black
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique powerhouse
I might have given this four stars but I think when people talk about the flaws of a film, there is an illusion that one could correct those flaws without fundamentally changing... Read more
Published 21 months ago by R. Ross
3.0 out of 5 stars The Private Life of a Movie Star
The Big Knife, 1955 film

A famous journalist visits Charlie Castle to get the truth about his marital status. Marty was involved in a hit-and-run scandal years ago. Mrs. Read more
Published on January 14, 2012 by Ray Stephanson
3.0 out of 5 stars Yeah, but Jack's hot!
Wow, the reviews for this film are all over the map. I think it's not a great film, but it has some great moments. There are some great actors in it who do very good jobs. Read more
Published on September 22, 2011 by Dr. Pretorius
2.0 out of 5 stars Overwrought & Overwritten
The Big Knife is Clifford Odet's tale from the dark side of Hollywood, clumsily adapted from his stage play about a mega star yearning to break free from the the studio yoke. Read more
Published on January 28, 2011 by James D. Long
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful
I rarely dislike old classics, film noirs, thrillers, dramas, ect. But this flick was one of the worst. Firstly, you never warm to any of the charactors. Read more
Published on November 9, 2010 by Rachel D. Estrada
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