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Big Heat (Limited Edition), The

Twilight Time // Unrated // May 8, 2012 // Region 0
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Screenarchives]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 1, 2012 | E-mail the Author

The Big Heat is one of the most famous noir films of all time and it has remained as a genuine classic in the genre. Directed by Fritz Lang, the gritty and dark journey taken contains shocks, and icy coldness. With solid performances from a cast including Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Lee Marvin, audiences will continue to be impressed by the decidedly dark film about the evil that can permeate the world of good and that can even corrupt those who want to fight for what's right.

Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) is a policeman thrown into difficult circumstances when he is trying to finish and close a case involving an apparent suicide by a fellow police officer. Upon meeting with the recently deceased officer's wife he learns of ill health and decides the case is closed. In short time things change. A mistress appears to tell him of her relationship with the officer, and about how his health wasn't poor at all.

Initially, Bannion writes off their encounter as being the indication of anything other than the deceased man's affair, but the following day he learns that things might be more complicated than he previously thought. The mistress was found dead a mere few hours past their meeting time and not in a way that would indicate anything besides murder. It isn't long before these matters become further complicated and especially for Bannion. The safety of a loving wife, Katie (Jocelyn Brando) and their adoring daughter are called into question.

Things begin to unravel quickly. Bannion uncovers the work of a syndicate boss crime leader with connections everywhere. Following a tragedy closely tied to Bannion, he becomes truly outraged with a determination to stop the crime boss permanently at any cost to himself. The road becomes paved with blood and terrible events. One moment after another... things are spiraling out of control for everyone.

Upon this fast-paced journey of determination, Bannion meets a gangster lover. Her name is Debby Marsh (performed with an amazing flair by Gloria Grahame) and we recognize as an audience that she has a sweet heart despite being involved in a wicked person's world. In an entirely disturbing and sadistic moment her gangster boyfriend Vince Stone (Lee Marvin) is revealed as an animalistic monster. Things spiral out of control for her and before long she's seeking revenge alongside Bannion. The pair works as necessary until the darker, bitter, and disturbing end arrives without a moment of solitude before the grim conclusion.

Fritz Lang is a great filmmaker. It might seem redundant to reiterate that, at least to some, but that's the case with his style. He knew how to tell a story with cinema and he is still regarded highly because his films were also groundbreaking works. Metropolis is arguably still the most famous and talked about production crafted by the auteur Lang, but with his noir styling things became particularly interesting when he directed The Big Heat, from a script by Sydney Boehm. Based upon a serialized story, The Big Heat signaled in a new wave of noir filmmaking that was extra gritty with surplus helpings of darkness that permeated the genre even beyond the founding of it as a genre.

Fans of stylistically creative filmmaking will certainly be amazed by the way Fritz Lang directs. The Big Heat is actually the kind of film that could have wound up being disastrous. Certainly, things are so complicated in the story that a less talented director might have turned the rather solid and complex script by Boehm into a parody of itself or as something akin to a standard over-the-top attempt at a standard Saturday-matinee throwaway film. Instead, The Big Heat helped define the genre beyond an already established expectation by being something that handled the material in such a serious light. The film represents a major accomplishment in motion-picture history and remains a must-see for serious film buffs. You may want for the lights to stay on though. With The Big Heat... there is darkness everywhere.

The Blu-ray:


The 1.37:1 full frame presentation preserves the original theatrical aspect ratio. That's good news, right? It gets even better than that. In fact... it gets far better. This is a nearly pristine transfer of the film. There are a few moments where some specks of dirt can be seen, but it barely occurs and almost isn't even noticeable. Most people won't be distracted at all. This transfer managed to be amazingly close to perfection. The black levels are strong and with accuracy and a layer of fine film grain closes out the solid presentation as one of the finest available for a black and white film noir. It's hard to imagine anyone being disappointed.

Described with one word? Stunning.


The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation doesn't have an ounce of disappointment in it. The audio is so clean, sharp, and satisfying as a mono presentation that I was left feeling amazed by the output here. It not only preserves the original way in which the film sounded in theaters, it might even be better. This release contains an amazing lossless mono mix.  


The extras are pretty slim but not without some merit. The disc includes a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track containing the isolated film score. This is an altogether amazing inclusion for film music fans.  There is also a well-written essay included in an enclosed booklet. The essay was written by critic Julie Kirgo and it elaborates on a number of issues relevant to understanding The Big Heat. The theatrical trailer for The Big Heat is also included in High Definition, and sadly is a bit of a joke because of how inaccurately it attempts to portray this film as a rather preposterous and poorly made B movie instead of as the serious film it actually is.

Final Thoughts:

The Big Heat is one of the best noir films around and one of the several masterworks by director Fritz Lang. It's a great movie and one that movie buffs everywhere would likely enjoy. For any viewers who have seen the film before it's worth noting that this Blu-ray is incredible and does offer a substantial upgrade value with the amazing picture quality. Newcomers won't likely be disappointed either and are encouraged to seek out the film and specifically this wonderful Blu-ray release.

It's a solid purchase and if you want to order it do so soon.  Only 3,000 copies were produced and I would expect there to far less available than that now. Keep that in mind when deciding when to pick up a copy from Twilight Time.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.






Highly Recommended

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