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The Big Heat Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 22 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted May 06 2012 - 03:35 PM

The Big Heat is a searing, violent film noir from famed director Fritz Lang. Twilight Time is now making it available on Blu-ray with a glorious, pristine black & white transfer. The Big Heat features an outstanding cast including Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin, and contains one of the most shocking scenes of brutality ever shot for a film noir (notwithstanding the fact that the worst of it occurs off-camera). 


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The Big Heat

Studio: Twilight Time/Columbia Pictures
Year: 1953
Rated: Not Rated
Program Length: 90 minutes                         Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p
Languages: English 1.0 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English SDH

The Program

I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better. - Debby Marsh

The Big Heat is a searing, violent film noir from famed director Fritz Lang. Twilight Time is now making it available on Blu-ray with a glorious, pristine black & white transfer. The Big Heat features an outstanding cast including Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin, and contains one of the most shocking scenes of brutality ever shot for a film noir (notwithstanding the fact that the worst of it occurs off-camera).

The Big Heat takes place in the fictional city of Kenport, which we quickly learn is awash in political corruption. The film open with the 3:00 a.m. suicide of Tom Duncan, who was in charge of the Record Bureau at the Kenport Police Department. The gunshot awakens his wife, Bertha (Jeannette Nolan), who is curiously unaffected by the site of her husband's body slumped over his desk. She approaches and picks up an envelope addressed to the District Attorney. She opens the envelope, peruses the contents, and picks up the telephone. Instead of calling the police, she wakes up Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby), a mobster who effectively runs Kenport. She informs Lagana that they need to meet. Only then does she report the suicide to the police, but by the time they arrive the envelope is nowhere to be seen.

The investigation is headed up by Sergeant Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford), an honest plainclothes cop who works in homicide. Duncan's death is a clear-cut case of suicide, but Bannion is perplexed because there is no apparent motive for Duncan killing himself. Bannion questions the widow, who tells him that Duncan had for some time been plagued by severe pain in his side but had refused to get medical attention. Bannion seems to be totally satisfied with her explanation until he receives a telephone call while dining at home with his wife, Katie (Jocelyn Brando). He learns that the police have received a tip from Lucy Chapman (Dorothy Green), a bar girl who works at a nightclub called The Retreat. Bannion meets her and listens with disbelief as Lucy insists that Duncan was in perfect health and that his wife had agreed to divorce him. Bannion does not believe Lucy but is sufficiently intrigued that he decides to follow up on her allegations. However, his doubts are the least of Lucy's problems. One of Lagana's henchmen, Larry Gordon (Adam Williams), sees Lucy talking with Bannion. The next morning her mutilated body is found on the side of a county road.

In the meantime, we are introduced to Vince Stone (Lee Marvin), Lagana's right-hand man and a flashy dresser who spends freely and has a volatile temper. Vince lives in a fancy apartment with his "doll," Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame). Debby is a girl who enjoys the good life and good-naturedly mocks Vince for the way in which he obsequiously jumps whenever Lagana calls. Bannion goes back to see Mrs. Duncan to question her about what he was told by Lucy Chapman. The meeting goes well until Bannion asks her about a vacation home which Duncan owned. Mrs. Duncan takes umbrage at this line of questioning. "For Tom's sake," she replies, "I resent the implication." The following day Bannion is called on the carpet by Lt. Wilks (Willis Bouchey), who was received a complaint from the Police Commissioner that Bannion has been hounding Mrs. Duncan. Wilks, who is nearing retirement, obviously has no intention of ruffling any feathers while he can see his pension on the horizon.

Bannion comes to suspect that Lagana is involved when his wife Katie receives a threatening phone call. In just two short scenes director Lang effectively conveys the fact that the Bannions have a very good marriage. They dote on their daughter and they enjoy bantering with each other. Significantly, Katie never complains when Bannion's work calls him away at night. After receiving the phone call, Bannion makes the fateful decision to confront Lagana at his palatial residence. This sets off a series of violent events which are truly horrifying and which have dire consequences for several of the principal characters.

Although Gloria Grahame shares top billing with Glenn Ford and Jocelyn Brando, as Debby she appears in only one scene during the first 40 minutes of The Big Heat. Thereafter, however, the sexy but somewhat naive Debby plays a prominent role as the action unfolds. She is well aware of Vince's violent streaks, but most of the time he treats her well and she has philosophically accepted that she has to take the bad with the good. Lee Marvin in chilling at Vince, and a very young Carolyn Jones briefly appears in one scene which highlights Vince's vicious streak. Glenn Ford is fine as the dedicated cop who is capable of being positively ruthless when the need arises. Alexander Scourby is convincing as the slick mobster Lagana, and Jocelyn Brando (Marlon's older sister) delivers a sweet and sympathetic portrayal as Bannion's wife. Jeannette Nolan also is deserving of notice as the wily and conniving widow of the suicide victim.

The Big Heat is an inconic film noir which also is available on DVD. While the DVD transfer is fine, this Blu-ray really brings out the strong contrasts, evocative shadows and exceptional compositions which are associated with Fritz Lang's films. As with all Twilight Time titles, it is limited to a run of 3,000 copies so those who are interested in getting it should act while it is still available.

The Video

As noted, the picture quality of this Blu-ray release is outstanding. The transfer is consistently sharp and free of damage, with deep, inky black levels, outstanding contrast and excellent shadow detail. There also are a number of wonderful close-ups which display exceptional detail. As is typical of films from Sony's vault, this transfer retains an appropriate lever of film grain and the result is a pleasing, cinematic experience which undoubtedly emulates - and perhaps improves upon - the way the film looked when it was released in theaters nearly 60 years ago. The film is properly framed at 1.33:1.

The Audio

The lossless 1.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack accurately reproduces the film's original mono sound. The dialogue is clear and understandable, and the audio is free of unwanted hiss and distortion. The mono sound obviously does not lend itself to spectacular sound effects, but the occasional explosion and sounds of gunfire pack some punch. As is always the case with Twilight Time releases, the film can be viewed accompanied by the isolated score track (the uncredited score is by composer Henry Vars).

The Supplements

As is generally the case with Twilight Time Blu-rays, the extras on this disc are very limited. The film's theatrical trailer is included and is in excellent shape. The only other extra is the isolated score track. The Big Heat has been divided into twelve chapters, and viewers also have the ability to see a list of the entire Twilight Time catalog, including the upcoming Blu-ray releases of As Good As it Gets and The Wayward Bus.

The Packaging

The Big Heat comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case. Included is an eight-page booklet which contains an excellent essay by Julie Kirgo, black & white still photos, and a full color reproduction of an original movie poster.

The Final Analysis

The Big Heat is a classic film noir by one of the finest directors of the genre. Viewers who enjoy this film should seek out Fritz Lang's follow-up film noir, Human Desire, which also stars Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: May 8, 2012


Rich Gallagher

#2 of 22 OFFLINE   gruagach

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Posted May 10 2012 - 11:43 AM

I plugged in The Big Heat this evening after receiving it. It plays in picture frame mode (black bars along the sides and bottom). Anyone else have this problem?

#3 of 22 OFFLINE   kingofthejungle

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Posted May 10 2012 - 11:46 AM

How strange, my copy isn't that way at all. Don't know what to tell ya. :(

#4 of 22 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted May 10 2012 - 01:39 PM

I plugged in The Big Heat this evening after receiving it. It plays in picture frame mode (black bars along the sides and bottom). Anyone else have this problem?

No issue here. A quick scan shows this as an outstanding disc. Bravo Twilight Time for releasing this (and Sony for the transfer).
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#5 of 22 OFFLINE   gruagach

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Posted May 11 2012 - 03:18 AM

I was afraid of that. It must be my machine. I'll have to see if there's a new firmware update. Last night I plugged in other blurays and the proper aspects appeared. Then I popped in a 1:33 DVD (Big Heat is my first bluray 1:33) and it was fine. Did lots of button pushing with settings options. Thanks.

#6 of 22 OFFLINE   gruagach

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Posted May 12 2012 - 02:57 PM

Blimey! Seeing this movie isn't going to be easy. Found a firmware update, but it's for Windows only. I'll try to decompress it at work and burn a disque. By the time I can watch it properly, they'll have a new version out that's colourized, 3-D with CGI space battles and dinosaurs.:)

#7 of 22 OFFLINE   Craig Beam

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Posted May 13 2012 - 10:55 AM

Just finished watching mine, and I'm absolutely thrilled with the presentation. Looked and sounded spectacular! And the steaming coffee pot depicted on the booklet cover was a lovely black humor touch. Here's hoping TT puts out some more noir on blu-ray.... *Sigh* My crush on Gloria Grahame has been given new life. http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/

#8 of 22 OFFLINE   Danny Burk

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Posted May 14 2012 - 02:18 AM

Just watched the blu a couple of nights ago. Somehow I'd never seen the film before. Great film with superb lighting and cinematography, and a beautiful presentation. Well worth the purchase if you're already a fan, or if like me, you've been induced to order it by all the positive comments here!

#9 of 22 OFFLINE   bigshot

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Posted May 15 2012 - 04:57 AM

This is the best looking and most film like bluray I own. The picture and sound are absolutely perfect. It even beats Psycho and Night of the Hunter for quality of sound and image.

#10 of 22 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 15 2012 - 06:52 AM

I'm impressed. The cover art is clever, too. Posted Image

#11 of 22 OFFLINE   Jon Hertzberg

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Posted May 15 2012 - 07:46 AM

Gorgeous Blu-ray. Just watched it last night, after not having seen it in many years. Wrote a little something, inspired by a reissue Italian poster I found on the emovieposter site.

#12 of 22 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 15 2012 - 09:13 AM

I hadn't seen that Italian re-release poster before. Love Italian movie poster art. Here's the original from 1953: Posted Image The French Grande poster: Posted Image The Belgian: Posted Image and the Swedish: Posted Image

#13 of 22 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 15 2012 - 09:18 AM

The original American posters: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

#14 of 22 OFFLINE   kingofthejungle

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Posted May 15 2012 - 10:18 AM

I love the original poster art for this film. In fact, I have an original 1953 one sheet hanging on my wall right now! Slight amendment though Richard, the last image in post 13 is actually the cover of the American Pressbook, not a poster. Heck of a cool cover, though.

#15 of 22 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 15 2012 - 10:35 AM

Correct. I should have noted that. However, the pressbook cover did become a poster in Germany, Poland and Sweden.

#16 of 22 OFFLINE   Craig Beam

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Posted May 15 2012 - 12:51 PM

That pressbook image is spectacular. As much as I like TT's design, I might just create a custom cover....

#17 of 22 OFFLINE   Craig Beam

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Posted May 15 2012 - 01:50 PM

Okay, here's my first stab at it. I kept TT's spine and back cover. Thoughts? http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/

#18 of 22 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 15 2012 - 04:25 PM

Neatly and nicely done. But if you're going to change the front cover, I think you should change the back cover, too.

#19 of 22 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted May 16 2012 - 03:51 PM

One of my favorite Gloria Grahame posters.


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#20 of 22 OFFLINE   gruagach

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Posted June 01 2012 - 01:44 AM

Just want to say that I returned my copy to Screen Archives and they gave me a refund. So they are a good business to deal with. I guess I'll have to wait until sometime in the unforeseeable future to see The Big Heat in bluray.:(





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