The Big Heat (1953)

Apparently this is the only title in the Columbia noir box to have ever been released on home video before, and for that matter the only one I’d even heard of before; in fact, it was well enough known that you could even find it on VHS in this country back in the Good Old Days, which was how I first saw it in the early/mid-90s in my earlyish days of exploring classic Hollywood. Of course, in common with many films I saw once about 15 years ago and haven’t seen since, I recall bugger all about it, but I did have dim memories of not liking it that much. If that was the case then I was clearly wrong, for revisiting it tonight revealed it to be one of the best examples of its kind, riveting from start to finish. The remarkable thing, too, is just how bracing it still is; there are some scenes which still have a shocking quality now, so god/dess knows how much harder they must’ve seemed in 1953. Indeed, you could probably make a case for this as one of the first police-vigilante films, after a fashion: police sergeant investigating the suicide of a fellow officer uncovers trail of departmental corruption, wife is killed by bomb meant to stop him from prying further, time to hit the old vengeance trail without his badge to back him up. Fucking terrific; if I really didn’t like this back in the 90s, I can’t understand what was wrong with me.


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