Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stream-And-Run: The Big Knife (1955)

    Robert Aldrich directs Jack Palance to one of his best performances in this film noir classic…

    NOTE: Netflix is taking down a boatload of titles on May 1st, so I thought it might be fun to see how many I can watch in the next two weeks, and then post quick, little hit-and-run reviews here. Hope you enjoy, and if you want to see any of these movies and have Netflix, better watch ’em now!

    Robert Aldrich moved through genres and the changing times of Hollywood like a chameleon, but one thing that made his films stand out from the rest was the deep nihilistic streak running through them all… No more apparent than this 1955 film noir featuring Jack Palance and Ida Lupino. Palance plays Charlie Castle, a movie star struggling to balance his wife, his shady past and the studio he’s under contract with. Castle is eager to get out from controlling producer Stanley Hoff’s thumb, but Hoff won’t have any of it, and uses a rising starlet with dirt on Castle to force him to sign another deal. The Big Knife operates at a level of melodrama that will be hard for some to take seriously, but - once you let yourself go to the rhythm of the film - becomes quite intoxicating. Most of that is due to the cast; headed up by Palance, who’s magnificent here in one of his very best roles. Also memorable is Rod Steiger as Stanley Hoff, the producer who gets whatever he wants through either manipulation or intimidation. All of the action is filmed through the careful eye of Aldrich, who brings the story to a boil for the fantastic, hopelessly bleak ending - the way that only Robert Aldrich could.

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