Rent The Big Heat (1953)

4.1 of 5 from 194 ratings
1h 29min
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Ruthless criminals, a dedicated honest cop, sultry women and a gripping plot - all the elements of a classic police action-drama are here in force. Police Sergeant Bannion (Glenn Ford) is investigating the apparent suicide of a corrupt cop, then is suddenly ordered to stop - and The Big Heat is on. Driven to unravel the mystery, Bannion continues probing until an explosion meant for him, kills his wife. He resigns from he force and soon learns that behind it all is the powerful underworld led by Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby) and his cold-blooded henchman, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin).
When Stone's girl Debby (Gloria Grahame) makes a play for Bannion, Stone disfigures her face and in revenge, she tells all she knows. A life-or-death confrontation between Bannion and Stone brings this classic film noir thriller to a climatic unmissable finale!
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Robert Arthur
Sydney Boehm, William P. McGivern
Classics, Drama, Thrillers
100 Years of German Expressionism, Award Winners, Film History, inema Paradiso's 2023 Centenary Club: Part 2, The Biggest Oscar Snubs: Part 1, The Instant Expert's Guide, The Instant Expert's Guide to: Fritz Lang
Release Date:
Run Time:
89 minutes
English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, German Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.33:1 / 4:3
B & W
Release Date:
Run Time:
90 minutes
English Dolby Digital 1.0
English Hard of Hearing
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.37:1
B & W
BLU-RAY Regions:
(0) All
  • Audio commentary by film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman
  • Tony Rayns on Fritz Lang and 'The Big Heat' (2017, 34 mins): a newly filmed appreciation and analysis by the film historian
  • Martin Scorsese on The Big Heat (2009, 6 mins)
  • Michael Mann on The Big Heat (2009, 11 mins)
  • Isolated score: experience Henry Vars' original soundtrack music
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Image Gallery: on-set and promotional photography
  • UK Blu-ray premiere

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Reviews (3) of The Big Heat

Noir v The Mafia. - The Big Heat review by Steve

Spoiler Alert
Updated 03/03/2021

Lang's best American film and the pick of the noirs of the fifties about Mafia corruption. Glenn Ford as Dave Bannion is an honest sergeant in homicide which means he is constantly frustrated by crime boss Mike Lagana who owns the police and politicians. Bannion gets warned off by his chief but after his wife is killed by an explosive meant for him, Bannion goes solo....

In pressuring degenerate lunk Vince Stone (Lee Marvin) the suspended cop enrols the help of Stone's luscious, mercenary moll Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame) who wants revenge for Stone throwing scalding coffee in her face. A truly shocking moment still.

Glenn Ford is superb. But he is eclipsed by Gloria Grahame's virtuoso, show stopping performance as the good time girl who falls for the cop's burning obsession with revenge. She is so beautiful in this film, and she is inspired, hypnotic. There is a brilliant scene where she puts on her uniform, her fur coat, to kill the wife of a dead corrupt policeman (wearing the same uniform) which will release evidence of police criminality to the press: 'We're the same you and me. We're sisters under the mink'. 

The Big Heat is a landmark crime film, because of its violence, its vigilante hero and its depiction of organised crime. Given a decent production budget at last, Lang created a brilliant mainstream hit (which tones down his usual expressionistic style). Practically everyone in this film is corrupt, but there are occasional very moving passages when some damaged person, usually with nothing to lose, sticks their neck out and helps Bannion. The kindness of strangers.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

The heat is high. - The Big Heat review by RhysH

Spoiler Alert

Sometimes in the American gangster film the baddies can be somewhat endearing, the villains you love to hate, not in this Fritz Lang film noir, the baddies are really bad. None badder than Lee Marvin as Vince Stone, his top lip perspires with evil.

The plot is precise and richly written by Sydney Boehm, some great one liners all of them barbed with evil. The most sinister aspect of the plot is the seemingly expendable role of the women, justice is done at the end but at the awful expense of the horrible deaths of the main women characters.

Glen Ford is great as the detective on a mission weighed down by worries and Brylcreem and Gloria Grahame reveals emotional subtlety behind her great looks.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

Lang's American Masterpiece - The Big Heat review by MCG

Spoiler Alert

One of the greatest of all Hollywood film noirs and a searing commentary on America.  Masterful direction by Lang, not a frame or a word of dialogue wasted. This is how to make a film. Highly Recommended.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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