Film Noir Classic: "The Big Heat" - DVD Review

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by SteveGon, Jan 3, 2002.

  1. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    One of my favorite films noir has come to dvd! Along with Sahara, The Big Heat was one of my most anticipated December releases. For the most part, I wasn't disappointed.
    Directed by the great Fritz Lang, The Big Heat stars Glenn Ford as Dave Bannion, a tough cop investigating the suicide of Tom Duncan, another officer. He is soon approached by Duncan's mistress who informs him that there may have been more to the suicide than meets the eye. When the mistress ends up brutally murdered, Bannion decides to investigate further. Rebuffed by Duncan's widow, Bannion is told to stop his investigation by his superiors. He forges ahead anyway, earning not only the enmity of his milquetoast colleagues, but that of local mob-boss Mike Lagana, whose right-hand man, the psychotic Vince Stone (Lee Marvin, in a terrific performance), makes no bones about what he'd like to do with Bannion. Being a film noir, you can bet lots of people are gonna end up dead...
    Lang directed The Big Heat in a fairly straightforward manner, though you can spot a few of his expressionistic flourishes if you're looking for them. For instance; note the scene where Bannion confronts Mike Lagana in his home: the Lagana reaction shots when Bannion beats up on a mob lackey are pure Lang!
    I find the interplay between Bannion and his wife Katie (Jocelyn "sister of Marlon" Brando) fun to watch. She doesn't take any guff from him and isn't afraid to take a hit off his cigarette or drink from his glass of scotch. Those are nice touches.
    I also like the foreshadowing when Bannion attempts to help his young daughter construct a castle from building blocks...
    I'd like to single out Gloria Graham for her excellent performance as Debby, Vince Stone's tipsy girlfriend. She's perfect in the part of a ditzy blonde who blissfully ignores her boyfriend's temper until it's too late.
    The full-frame transfer on The Big Heat is very good. The deep blacks and sharpness of detail perfectly convey the noir look. There is some grain, but it's minimal and hardly noticeable. The excellent video is complemented by a mono track that sounds very nice - I had no problems with it.
    The only extras are a few trailers and a gallery of vintage movie posters. That's too bad as this is one movie on which I would have liked a commentary track.
    Included on the disc is a French audio track. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles are also available.
    Except for the disappointing lack of extras, I'm very happy with this disc. It's a must-have for noir buffs.
    Film rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] 1/2
    Disc rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Steve,
    Let me be the first to second your opinion about the film and dvd. This film noir is one of my favorites in that genre and Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, and Gloria Grahame gave excellent performances in "The Big Heat".[​IMG]
    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Steve,
    Nice review. Like Robert ( and Peter Fitzgerald, whom I expect to show up. [​IMG] ), I'm a fan of The Big Heat and was pleased to see Columbia Tri-Star release this film. Additional extras would have been welcome, but they did a nice job on the film presentation, which is the most important thing. ( This film and Sahara were two of my favorite releases as well in December. )
    I hope that they are getting some decent returns on their older catalog titles. I'd love to see Columbia Tri-Star release titles such as Convicted, In A Lonely Place, Human Desire, Underworld, U.S.A., and The Harder They Fall to name just a few.
    - Walter.
     
  4. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Thanks, guys! I'm not sure who has the rights, but I'd also like to see The Asphault Jungle and Laura released to dvd...
     
  5. Matt Everett

    Matt Everett Stunt Coordinator

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    I can't say enough about how much I like this movie! The performances, the dialogue and the direction are top-notch. Lee Marvin opens his mouth, out comes that deep, booming voice, and pure viciousness fills the screen! I just watched "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" for the first time and wanted more of his acting. (I just ordered "The Wild One" as well.)

    My only mild criticisms of the disc:

    1) I wanted more background info about the film itself (more extras)

    2) The film quality during the first few minutes is uneven.

    If you like Noir, Fritz Lang, or Lee Marvin, you'll appreciate this disc.
     
  6. PatrickL

    PatrickL Second Unit

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    It's encouraging to read the comments here, but some reviews I read earlier today give me pause.

    At DVDReview: "Sadly the print itself is the weakest link of the DVD and shows a lot of speckles that haven’t been cleaned. A cleanup pass could have gotten rid off the countless dust marks and scratches and would probably have removed some of the excessive grain evident in selected shots."

    At DVDFile: "...the image quality is a bit of a disappointment. Small specks and other such age debris are apparent throughout the film. Columbia has "cleaned up" other recent DVD releases dating from this period (or earlier), so it comes as a surprise that The Big Heat is subpar in this respect."

    Are these complaints off the mark? Exaggerated, perhaps?
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  8. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  9. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the news on Laura - I can't wait. As for the transfer on The Big Heat, I noticed the speckles, but I didn't think they were much of a distraction. Looked good to me...
     
  10. Matt Everett

    Matt Everett Stunt Coordinator

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    My impression of the video quality is good overall. I read those reviews and found them a little harsh, although my television is only a good-quality 27'', so I'm not equipped to see every visual glitch possible.

    The film suffers from specks and what looks to me like watermarks, but only during the opening credits and first few minutes of the movie. It looks like Columbia took the best-quality print they could find, but did not digitally clean up the image. In other words, the contrast, sharpness, and black level are very good (as any good print properly transfered would yield) but the signs of age haven't (at least in any great measure) been removed from the film. None of the quality issues I found had anything to do with digital artifacts, etc.

    My guess is review sites don't adjust much for the age of the film. They tend to set "The Matrix" or "Moulin Rouge" as a benchmark, and rate everything downward from there. "The Big Heat" can't compete with that on pure film quality issues.

    One positive note from the DVDFile review that I want to echo- the fidelity of the audio is excellent for a movie that age.
     

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