#117 The Big Heat

Watched: June 24 2017

Director: Fritz Lang

Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Alexander Scourby, Jocelyn Brando

Year: 1953

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Detective Sergeant Dave Bannion (Ford) has it all – a good job, a happy marriage and a lovely young daughter. That is, until officer Tom Duncan commits suicide and Bannion starts to investigate, uncovering layers and layers of corruption and deceit.

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He’s also invited to uncover other kinds of layers, if you catch our drift

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Those who cooperate with Bannion tend to die shortly thereafter, which makes him suspicious that the suicide may not have been as straightforward as initially thought. Even his superiors tell him to back down, which drives his determination to get to the bottom of the circumstances of his colleague’s death, as well as the extent of the mob’s influence on the police force.

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Methods include, but are not limited to, threatening widows. (PS: check out the decorative lamp in the background. Classic!)

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When Bannion’s wife is killed by a bomb intended for him, and his boss suspends him for not complying with orders and accusing him of being on the mob’s payroll, our hero quits his job and goes on a one man mission to bring down the local gangster Lagana (Scourby) and everyone connected to him.

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Cornering people in pubs is a tried and tested investigatory method in many a film. It usually ends in violence.

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One of Laguna’s thugs, Vince Stone (Marvin), has a girl he does not treat right – Debby Marsh (Grahame). After a confrontation between Bannion and Stone in a bar, Marsh, the obligatory scorned female, joins forces with her lover’s enemy.

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She pays the price though, poor girl…

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We absolutely loved this film! Bannion is an early incarnation of the disillusioned-cop-with-nothing-left-to-lose-who-goes-after-the-bad-guys-on-his-own, and he is perfect. We watched it with our parents (family time!) and all four of us were at the edge of our seats for the entirety. It’s thrilling, exciting and intriguing – everything we look for in a Noir.

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There’s also real tragedy and innocent victims

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On top of it all, it is directed by freakin’ Fritz Lang, the man behind two of our favourite entries on the list – M and MetropolisWhat’s not to love?

What we learned: If one side of your face is scarred, you can always go through life backwards. Also, good friends will come through in the end.

Next time: The Naked Spur (1953)

#18 M

Watched: August 17 2016

Director: Fritz Lang

Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke

Year: 1931

Runtime: 1h 50min

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We absolutely loved this film! It’s definitely going on our favourites list, and we cannot believe it took us this long to actually watch this classic when we’ve heard about it forever.

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This is pretty much a perfect summary of the plot

A German town is plagued by a serial killer who preys on young children. The local police are getting nowhere and the organized crime bosses decide to get in on the manhunt as the killer is bad for business. They put together the best neighbourhood watch squad ever – beggars. The police and the criminals get on the killer’s trail around the same time, and we follow the three parties (including the killer himself) towards the climax of the film.

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“What is the meaning of this? Have they labelled me a Mark? A Murderer? A Mango?”

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In the end, we are treated to the eternal debate of what to do with a compulsive killer who claims he cannot help himself. Peter Lorre gives an outstanding performance as Hans Beckert – despite his despicable actions, he is somewhat believable as he begs for his life and pretty much pleads insanity (although his claims aren’t quite compatible with the fact that he sent the police and press taunting letters).

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When even the criminals want you dead, you know you done fucked up!

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It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was we loved so much about this, but here are a few things that stood out:

  • Extremely cool long shots
  • Serial killer hunt (it’s our kryptonite)
  • Great visuals
  • Awesome shot compositions
  • The amazing cross-cutting between the police and the local gangsters
  • The performances
  • The use of shadows
  • The killer whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King”
  • Basically everything about it.

We strongly urge anyone who hasn’t seen this film to make it a priority. It’s worth it.

Things we learned: everyone has a responsibility to look after the children. Also, we really like dark stuff. Like, really.

Next time: Monkey Business (1931) Apparently 1931 was a good year for movies!

#6 Metropolis

Watched: August 2 2016

Director: Fritz Lang

Starring: Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm

Year: 1927

Runtime: 2h 33min (but it flies by – trust us!)

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Another classic we’ve seen before (also the second film so far that we actually own on DVD), but it’s been years and this is definitely a masterpiece worth rewatching. It’s a sort of dystopian biblical apocalypse story which follows this old, worn-out narrative:

Boy sees girl; boy follows girl; boy finds out father is an evil tyrant; boy goes undercover among the oppressed; boy presents as Messiah to girl; girl is replaced by evil robot; evil robot instigates murder and riot; girl tries to save the children; girl is accused of being a witch; and you know how this all goes. If you don’t, we don’t want to spoil it for you. Yes, the film is almost 90 years old, but a lot of people have not seen it and they should!

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Nothing could possibly go wrong if you build a huge tower and call it “The New Tower of Babel”

This is a stunning piece of cinema in every sense. It is epic in scope, beautifully shot, superbly acted, has amazing choreography (especially the sequence with the workers in the beginning) and incredible visual effects.

Much of the film seems an obvious source of inspiration for other works, and there are naturally many biblical allusions; to Babylon, the Great Flood, the seven cardinal sins, the Golden Calf and the Tower of Babel in particular.

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“What is this? A Tower of Babel for ANTS? It needs to be at least three times bigger!”

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One can spend months analysing this film, and perhaps one should, but we still have at least 994 films to go (damn you, fluctuating list!) so we’re going to have to wrap this up. If you haven’t seen this film, you should. Go watch it right now! It’s on YouTube – you have no excuse.

Next time: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)