91 of 1001 Movies: The Big Heat (1953)

The Big Heat is a short, but intense movie full of mystery and action that it is one of the better crime movies to watch from the 50s. Fritz Lang shows his talent for directing, and making the film run with suspense up to the very end despite the predictable outcome. The film is aided by Glenn Ford in being a good movie. His acting may be a tad strong at the time, but he really induces passion into what he is doing, and it makes for an interesting watch.

Dave Bannion is called on to a case where a man has killed himself, and his wife doesn’t seem too upset by the incident. Everyone is acting suspicious though, and the further he investigates the more he becomes a target of a powerful crime boss who can even sway the police force to his rules. His family becomes at risk for being the target of a hit forcing him to separate himself from them until he can figure out what is happening. He finds an unlikely ally in Debby, who has personal contact with the man she knows to be responsible for the crimes.


As said, Ford is fascinating as Dave. He’s a little dramatic, but it works with the whole vibe of the film including how the other actors and actresses act themselves. Gloria Grahame was said to have such chemistry with Ford as Debby that they brought them both back to star in another movie together, except sadly it didn’t do as well as this one. Grahame is great as Debby though, and brings a lot of flare, and sass to the woman, which seemed to be rare to see in the 50s when women were still looked at as being tame and demure in many of the movies I’ve seen so far.

There is also a lot of action in the film including a few explosions that come out of nowhere. They sort of surprise you. There is also the scene where coffee is used as a weapon this is quite memorable, and not because you can see but because it brings out so much of your imagination. The movie runs really short though, so there is a lot of development for the shot time given to it.

The Big Heat is Film Noir at one of it’s best. The cast works well together, and so well they would even be called back together not long for another movie. The acting is pretty decent, but the dramatic reactions also give it a certain identity that is interesting to watch. Overall, if you’re going to try out a movie from the genre this is one to begin with. The way the lighting is shot also adds to the whole suspenseful vibe of the film. The lighting adds usually to the appeal.  The Big Heat has it all with suspense, a little romance, an alluring lead, and a bit of action.

Rating 8 of 10.

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