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THE BIG HEAT ($25) is a gritty and violent film noir from director Fritz Lang, which has become most notable for a central character’s facial disfigurement- via a scalding pot of coffee. Starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin, THE BIG HEAT tells the story of the investigation that follows a corrupt police officer’s suicide. Ford portrays homicide detective Dave Bannion, who is assigned to the suicide. As Bannion tries to get at the truth, he uncovers a web of corruption that starts within the police department and leads back to a high-powered mobster named Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby). When Bannion doesn’t heed the warnings to drop his investigation, his wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando) pays the ultimate price, as a bomb intended for him explodes when she starts the family car. With even greater resolve, Bannion is determined to find his wife’s killer and bring down Lagana. As Bannion continues to dig, he finds the key to the truth in Lagana’s sadistic henchman Vince Stone (Marvin) and his ill treaded girlfriend Debby (Grahame). THE BIG HEAT is an intriguing film noir that features excellent performances from its leading players, especially the very beautiful Gloria Grahame, who does some of her finest work in this film. The supporting cast of THE BIG HEAT features Jeanette Nolan, Peter Whitney, Willis Bouchey, Robert Burton, Adam Williams, Howard Wendell and an uncredited Carolyn Jones.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE BIG HEAT available on DVD in a fine looking black and white transfer that offers the film in its proper full screen aspect ratio. Although slightly grainy, the image on the DVD is fairly impressive for a film noir that is almost half a century old. There are very few specks and signs of age on the film element, which creates a smooth and enjoyable presentation. The image itself is pretty crisp and well defined. Blacks are solid and the whites are stable and pure. Contrast can be a bit stark at times, which enhances the overall intensity of the film. There are absolutely no problems with digital compression artifacts during the presentation.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is very good for its age. Background hiss and audible distortions are never a concern, even when a fair amount of amplification is applied to the track. Dialogue remains completely understandable throughout. A French soundtrack has also been provided on the DVD, along with English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as vintage advertising material, a theatrical trailer and bonus trailers.

THE BIG HEAT is a classic film noir that hasn’t lost any of its bite. Columbia TriStar has done a fine job with the DVD presentation, making this a disc movie buffs will want to own.


The Big Heat


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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