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Film Studies 101
Feature
Become A Film Noir Expert In Ten Easy Movies
Master a genre in just a handful of films

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Become A Film Noir Expert In Ten Easy Movies | The Big Heat (1953)
The Big Heat (1953)

Director: Fritz Lang
Cast: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Jocelyn Brando
Tagline: “A hard cop and a soft dame!”

This classic enshrined Fritz Lang as the link between German expressionism and American noir, but the tagline had it wrong. The “hard cop” was Glenn Ford’s homicide sergeant Dave Bannion, but “soft dame”? Well, there ain’t too many in The Big Heat’s hardboiled world. Definitely not Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame), the dame on the make who gets too close to Bannion for the local crime syndicate’s liking and ends up with a face full of scalding coffee. Aside from a strong argument for iced latte, it’s possibly the defining act of weapons’-grade nastiness in the whole noir canon – which is saying something given the rogue’s gallery of psychos and pistol-packing maniacs that crept out of William McGivern’s pulp novel alone. Bannion, whose wife is murdered when he starts poking around a suspicious suicide in the department, chucks in his badge to pursue them, leading him straight to a hive of bad guys. He’s an upstanding cop on the surface, but scratch a little and you find a man blithely endangering all the women he brings into his life in the headlong pursuit of revenge. But then, that righteousness lark is no easy ride, especially with Lee Marvin and Alexander Scourby’s blank-eyed hoodlums on the prowl.

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