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The Big Combo

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Genre  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Music director  David Raksin
Language  English
7.5/10 IMDb

Director  Joseph H. Lewis
Writer  Philip Yordan (by)
Screenplay  Philip Yordan
Country  United States
The Big Combo movie poster
Release date  March 1955 (1955-03)
Cast  Cornel Wilde (Leonard Diamond), Jean Wallace (Susan Lowell), Brian Donlevy (Joe McClure), Richard Conte (Mr. Brown), Lee Van Cleef (Fante), Earl Holliman (Mingo)
Similar movies  Mad Max: Fury Road, Blackhat, Brooklyn's Finest, Memories of Murder, John Wick, Taken 3
Tagline  The Most Startling Story The Screen Has Ever Dared Reveal!

The big combo 1955 film noir crime

The Big Combo is a 1955 film noir crime film directed by Joseph H. Lewis and photographed by cinematographer John Alton, with music by David Raksin.


The Big Combo movie scenes

The film stars Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte and Brian Donlevy, as well as Jean Wallace, who was Wilde's wife at the time. It also included the final screen appearance of actress Helen Walker.

The Big Combo movie scenes

The big combo 1955 full movie


The Big Combo wwwgstaticcomtvthumbmovieposters286p286pv

Police Lt. Leonard Diamond is on a personal crusade to bring down sadistic gangster Mr. Brown. He's also dangerously obsessed with Brown's girlfriend, the suicidal Susan Lowell. His main objective as a detective is to uncover what happened to a woman called "Alicia" from the crime boss's past.

The Big Combo The Big Combo Wikipedia

Mr. Brown, his second-in-command McClure and thugs Fante and Mingo kidnap and torture the lieutenant, then pour a bottle of alcohol-based hair tonic down his throat before letting him go. Diamond eventually learns through one of Brown's past accomplices that Alicia was actually Brown's wife. The accomplice suspects that Alicia was sent away to Sicily with former mob boss Grazzi, then murdered, tied to the boat's anchor and permanently submerged.

The Big Combo The Big Combo 1955 Joseph H Lewis Twenty Four Frames

Diamond questions a Swede named Dreyer, who was the skipper of that boat (but now operates an antiques store as a front, bankrolled by Brown). Dreyer denies involvement, but this doesn't prevent him from being murdered by McClure within seconds after he leaves the shop.

The Big Combo The Big Combo Brattle Theatre

Diamond tries to persuade Susan to leave Brown and admits he might be in love with her. He shows her a photo of Brown, Alicia and Grazzi together on the boat. Susan finally confronts Brown about his wife and is told she is still alive in Sicily, Italy, living with Grazzi.

The Big Combo The Big Combo

Brown next orders a hit on Diamond. However, when his gunmen Fante and Mingo go to Diamond's apartment, they mistakenly shoot and kill the cop's burlesque dancer girlfriend Rita instead. Diamond sees an up-to-date photo of Alicia but realizes it wasn't taken in Sicily (since there's snow on the ground). This leads Diamond to suspect Brown didn't kill Alicia but his boss Grazzi instead. Diamond is able to track Alicia to a sanitarium, where she is staying under another name. He asks for her help.

The Big Combo DVD Savant Bluray Review The Big Combo

Brown's right-hand man, McClure, wants to take over. He plots with Fante and Mingo to ambush Mr. Brown, but ends up getting killed himself because they are loyal to the boss.

The Big Combo Bluray DVD Release The Big Combo Disc Dish

At police headquarters, Brown shows up with a writ of habeas corpus, effectively preventing Alicia to testify against her husband. Brown also brings a big stash of "money" to Fante and Mingo while they are hiding out from the police, but the box turns out to contain a bomb that apparently kills both.

Brown shoots the lieutenant's partner Sam and kidnaps Susan, planning to fly away to safety. Diamond finds a witness that could finally nail the elusive gangster—Mingo, who survived the blast and confesses, sobbing over the body of his cohort, that Brown was behind it all. Alicia is able to help Diamond figure out where Brown was likely to take Susan, a private airport where Brown intends to board a getaway plane.

However, the plane doesn't show up and the film climaxes in a foggy airplane hangar shootout. Susan shines a bright light in Brown's eyes and the lieutenant places him under arrest. The last scene shows the silhouetted figures of Diamond and Susan in the fog, considered to be one of the iconic images of film noir.


  • Cornel Wilde as Police Lt. Leonard Diamond
  • Richard Conte as Mr. Brown
  • Brian Donlevy as Joe McClure
  • Jean Wallace as Susan Lowell
  • Robert Middleton as Police Capt. Peterson
  • Lee Van Cleef as Fante
  • Earl Holliman as Mingo
  • Helen Walker as Alicia Brown
  • Jay Adler as Sam Hill
  • John Hoyt as Nils Dreyer
  • Ted de Corsia as Bettini
  • Helene Stanton as Rita
  • Roy Gordon as Audubon
  • Whit Bissell as Doctor (scenes deleted) (as Whit Bissel)
  • Steve Michaell as Bennie Smith - Boxer
  • Baynes Barron as Young Detective
  • James McCallion as Frank - Technician
  • Tony Michaels as Photo Technician
  • Brian O'Hara as Attorney Malloy
  • Bruce Sharpe Detective
  • Michael Mark as Fred - Hotel Clerk
  • Philip Van Zandt as Mr. Jones (scenes deleted)
  • Donna Drew as Miss Hartleby
  • Production

    The film was a co production between Theodora, the production company of Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace, and Security, a company of Phil Yordan and Sidney Harmon. It was shot in 26 days.

    Critical response

    Reviews of the movie today are mostly positive. Chris Dashiell on the website CineScene finds the dialogue "run of the mill" but praises the film's director, writing that "Lewis had a remarkable ability to infuse poetry into the most banal material, and The Big Combo is one of his best efforts... it's not as startlingly inventive as Lewis's best film, Gun Crazy (1949), but it's a quality B-film, satisfying and dark."

    The staff at Variety magazine liked the film's direction, music and photography, despite "a rambling, not-too-credible plot." They wrote, "Performances are in keeping with the bare-knuckle direction by Joseph Lewis and, on that score, are good. Low-key photography by John Alton, one of his best, and a jazz-derived score by David Raksin with solo piano by Jacob Gimpel are in keeping with the film's tough mood."

    Film critic Ed Gonzalez lauded the film in his review, writing, "Shadows and lies are the stars of The Big Combo, a spellbinding black-and-white chiaroscuro with the segmented texture of a spider's web ... John Alton's lush camera work is so dominant here you wouldn't know Joseph H. Lewis was also behind the camera. The story doesn't have any of the he-she psychosexual politicking that juices the director's Gun Crazy, but that's no loss given this film's richer returns. The set-pieces are fierce, as is the Casablanca tweak of the last shot, and Wallace's performance—a sad spectacle of a hurting creature caught between light and dark, good and evil—is one of noir's great unheralded triumphs."

    Critics have compared the quality of The Big Combo to Fritz Lang's The Big Heat as one of the great film noir detective classics in terms of style.

    The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 91% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on eleven reviews.


    Most film noir movies feature scores that are orchestral (strings). In contrast, The Big Combo is one of few that has a brass (trumpets, saxophones, etc.) score.

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    The Big Combo Wikipedia
    The Big Combo IMDbThe Big Combo Rotten TomatoesThe Big Combo

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