The Big Heat

The Big Heat (1953)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, Gloria Grahame
Extras: Vintage Advertising, Theatrical Trailer

One of the most impressive film noir’s of the 50s came from legendary German director-gone-Hollywood in the 1953 movie ’The big Heat.’ Starring Glenn Ford and Lee Marvin in stellar performances, this film contains everything you’d expect from a classic crime drama. Ruthless gangsters, an honest cop, a sultry dame, corruption, explosions… all the meat is there.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is bringing us ’The Big Heat’ in the film’s original fullscreen presentation on this DVD in a good black and white transfer that is bringing out the best of the movie. Given its nature, balanced contrast is vital for this movie and Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment ensured that the blacks are very deep while the highlights are glaring – without blooming. The result, film noir at its best with an intricate play of light and dark from the master of German expressionism. Sadly the print itself is the weakest link of the DVD and shows a lot of speckles that haven’t been cleaned. A cleanup pass could have gotten rid off the countless dust marks and scratches and would probably have removed some of the excessive grain evident in selected shots. The compression has been handled very well without introducing compression artifacts of any sort.

The DVD features the movie’s original English mono audio track, as well as a French dub. Unrestored, the audio tracks clearly show their age with limited fidelity. The frequency response is narrow, making dialogues appear quite harsh at times, and the dynamic range is oftentimes not quite good enough to do full justice to the explosive action on the screen. Nonetheless, this is an original presentation the way the film was produced and it adds to the flair and vintage classic feel of the film.

’The Big Heat’ is a great film. Nicely paced, extremely well photographed and with a gripping storyline, the movie doesn’t disappoint a bit. Although the DVD shows off the technical limitations of the movie, it is offering a pleasing experience nonetheless. For fans of the noir genre, this is a disc that has to go into your collection.