Friday, 28 January 2011
The Big Combo 
If I were to make a list of archetypal film noirs that I’ve seen, The Big Combo would surely find a place in it. The film is about a cop’s obsession with bringing down an organised crime boss against all oppositions, while at the same time being, on some Freudian level, in love with the mobster’s beautiful and emotionally vulnerable fiancé. The film was way ahead for its time, as it contained a heavy dose of violence – the film contains one of the most innovative torture scenes one can imagine – and palpable sexual undercurrents. Cornel Wilde, as the tough as nails cop, was very effective, as were Richard Conte as the menacing, smooth-talking gangster, and Jean Wallace as his moll. But the most unforgettable part of the film undoubtedly happens to be its photography and cinematography. The canted camera angles, the high-contrast shots, the silhouettes and the arresting chiaroscuro haven’t just given us some truly iconic cinematic moments (as in the devastatingly beautiful final shot), it also managed to portray the seedy and sordid with such style, composition and élan that one can almost call the film poetry in motion, albeit a very bleak, dark and disturbing one. The film’s terrific opening soundtrack too managed to play its part by creating the fervent, feverish mood and the perverse, nightmarish atmosphere. Yet, for all its poetic beauty and sadness, it also remains an engaging and gleefully unpredictable hardboiled thriller.
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Genre: Crima Thriller/Film Noir/Gangster Film