The Big Combo

Cornel Wilde and Helene Stanton in The Big Combo (dir. Joseph H. Lewis, 1955).

Anne burst out laughing when Police Lieutenant Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde) suddenly, and not out of any visible need, in the middle of a conversation with his captain, starts shaving in his office with an electric razor. This is that kind of film. What kind of film is that, you ask? The real good low-budget noir kind. Richard Conte as the villainous Mr. Brown is a fast-talking, smooth-dressing wop with a hardass attitude; Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman are a couple of murderous but somewhat poignant thugs; Brian Donlevy is a washed-up kingpin whose hearing aid provides for some truly inventive screen brutality; Jean Russell is the mobster's long-suffering squeeze, with some of the flattest blonde hair in the entire fifties (thanks again to Anne for that observation); Helen Walker is the mobster's previous squeeze, who is either pretending to be crazy because she's scared, or pretending to care about gardening because she's crazy, or both. I got a little confused by her character. More incredible cinematography from John Alton.

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