The Big Heat [DVD] [1953]

When you start talking about film noir, eventually you have to talk about Fritz Lang's seminal The Big Heat. The film comes on like a bare-knuckled sucker punch to the body. Hard, direct, and mean. This is the real deal. It doesn't get any better than this. At times, The Big Heat plays like a '50s version of a James Ellroy novel. The bad guys are tough, the women are tough, but the cops are even tougher. And all of it looking the way that real film noir should look: in glorious black-and-white. Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment's DVD presents the film in its full screen theatrical aspect ratio (1.33:1) and with an English mono soundtrack. The picture is sharp, crisp, and perfectly balanced, but frankly it's not in the best of shape. There are lines, scratches, and other picture artifacts present throughout. It would be nice to see a more careful and thorough clean-up job given to the print for future releases. The disc contains an alternate French mono soundtrack, multiple subtitle options, vintage advertising (lobby cards), and theatrical trailers for this and other Columbia/TriStar DVDs.
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Special Features

  • Digitally mastered audio and video
  • Full-screen presentation
  • Audio: English [mono], French
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
  • Vintage advertising
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Interactive menus
  • Scene selections


The Big Heat
Fritz Lang directed this gritty drama of gangland murder and police corruption, which was considered quite violent in its day. Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) is a scrupulously honest police detective who learns that one of his fellow officers has committed suicide. Bannion is told by the officer's wife, Bertha (Jeanette Nolan), that he was severely depressed after being told he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. But the cop's mistress, a barmaid named Lucy (Dorothy Green), has another tale to tell. She claims that he left behind a suicide note detailing a complex trail of corruption in the department, leading to mob boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby), and now Bertha plans to use the note to blackmail Lagana. When Lucy is found dead beside an abandoned road, with her body showing obvious signs of torture, Bannion is convinced that her story was true, and he goes after Lagana. When he threatens to expose Lagana's dealings, the gangster orders Bannion killed. But the car bomb meant to finish Bannion off instead kills his wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando). The police take Bannion off the case, but, convinced his peers are trying to cover their tracks, Bannion follows the case alone, determined to get revenge. Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame shine in key supporting roles. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Glenn Ford
    Glenn Ford - Dave Bannion
  • Gloria Grahame
    Gloria Grahame - Debby Marsh
  • Jocelyn Brando
    Jocelyn Brando - Katie Bannion
  • Alexander Scourby
    Alexander Scourby - Mike Lagana
  • Lee Marvin
    Lee Marvin - Vince Stone
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