Z-View: “The Big Heat”

The Pitch: ”Hey, We could make a new kind of movie.  It’ll be about an honest cop who refuses to back off his investigation of a homicide.  He’ll go up against crooked cops, mobsters and refuse to quit no matter the cost.  This movie will influence everything from ‘Dirty Harry’  to Frank Miller’s Sin City.  What do you say?”

“Let’s do it!”

The Tagline:  “A hard cop and a soft dame!.”

The Overview:  Glenn Ford is Detective Sgt. Dave Bannion, a rare honest cop in a town run by a mobster named Mike Lagana.  Bannion is sent in to investigate the suicide of a fellow cop.  It should be an open-and-shut-case, but when a prostitute provides evidence that there’s more to the case, Bannion begins to dig deeper.

Then the prostitute turns up dead — the result of a torture murder — and Bannion is ordered to stand down.  He refuses.  How can one honest cop bring down a powerful mobster and a police force full of cops on the take?  Dave Bannion is going to find out… or die trying,

*** Beware – minor spoilers can be found below ***

The Good:

  • The direction by Fritz Lang.
  • The cast: Glenn Ford, Gloria Graham, Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby, and Lee Marvin!  They are excellent.
  • There is an undercurrent that runs through this movie that what you’re seeing on the surface is just a hint of what is really going on.
  • The movie is perfectly cast from the main stars to the smallest roles.  Carolyn Jones [best known as Morticia on The Adams Family] has a small, but important role.
  • Bannion’s confrontation of Lagana in his mansion.
  • The interplay between Bannion and his wife.
  • Bannion in the bar [all of the scenes – with the prostitute, later with the bartender, and again when he backs down Lee Marvin].
  • Bannion’s scenes in the hotel with Debby Marsh.  Will he cross the line?  Will they?
  • The guy’s who get the drop on Bannion… and what happens next.  [It is not what you’d expect.]
  • Bannion and Mrs. Duncan.  Will he cross the line [and not like he might have with Debby Marsh]?

The Bad:

  • Lee Marvin as Vince Stone.  He’s a mobster on the rise and he’ll do or have done whatever Lagana orders.
  • Hot coffee near Vince Stone when he’s mad.
  • What happens to people who cross Mike Lagana.
  • What happens to people around Dave Bannion when he won’t back down.
  • What happens to lawbreakers when Dave Bannion is on the case.

The Ugly:

  • Getting a face full of hot coffee.
  • Dave Bannion’s last line of the movie.  ; )

Rating: 5 out of 5