****/**** Image A Sound C+ Extras B
starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby
screenplay by Sydney Boehm, based on William P. McGivern's SATURDAY EVENING POST serial
directed by Fritz Lang
by Walter Chaw The pinnacle of Fritz Lang's American noir output, The Big Heat vacillates between hard-bitten and surprisingly tender. A movie of dualities, it positions Glenn Ford's Det. Sgt. Bannion on the liminal borders between dialectic states: he presents a familiar hardboiled veneer on the one side, a broken, exhausted, eventually devastated family man on the other. The picture partitions noir bodily, forcefully into the margins of the gender divide, and it confronts, full-on, the popular conception of the '50s nuclear family. It appears fully formed, an irritant to the hegemony of the American myth of nuclear/consumer nirvana, and it suggests that the cultural upheaval that would result in the helter-skelter '60s started showing its fatigue early. The Big Heat is Rebel Without a Cause, except the mother is killed and the gay kid lives.