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The Big Knife

USA 1955
produced by
Robert Aldrich for The Associates & Aldrich Company
directed by Robert Aldrich
starring Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters, Ilka Chase, Everett Sloane, Wesley Addy, Paul Langton, Nick Dennis, Bill Walker, Michael Winkelman
screenplay by James Poe, based on the play by Clifford Odets, music by Frank De Vol

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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Charles Castle (Jack Palance) is a man who seems to have everything: He's a young, good-looking, a wildly popular moviestar, has a beautiful house, a good relationship to the press even, a PR man, Buddy (Paul Langton), who adores him, and his producer/mentor Stanley Hoff (Rod Steiger) offers him a 7 year contract where he can more or less call the shots - and the last one's exactly the rub, while that contract sounds like a little piece of heaven, Charles' wife Marion (Ida Lupino) has long seen through Hoff and noticed that he treats Charles like nothing more than a puppet, and will probably let Charles only call the shots if it's in his favour. Furthermore, she doesn't like what Charles has become, an alcoholic womanizer who's more after the money than creating art these days. So she gives him an ultimatum: Either he refuses to sign Hoff's contract or she leaves him - and Charles is willing to give it all up for her and their son (Michael Winkelman), too. But that's not as easily done as it seems, as Charles is Hoff's money-printing machine so he's reluctant to let him go - and he has some dirt on Charles to blackmail him into signing, too: A couple of years back, Charles had an accident while driving under the influence that cost a person's life, but his PR man Buddy took the wrap and went to prison for it. Hoff though has a witness, Dixie (Shelley Winters), who has been in the car with him back then, to testify otherwise if bad comes to worse. So Charles loses - against Hoff, and he loses his wife, at least for the time being ...

Months later: Charles is informed by Hoff's right-hand man Smiley (Wendell Corey) that Dixie has become a liability of late, and she might be talking before long, but before she does so, Charles hints at her having a nasty accident. Charles invites Dixie over to talk her out of it, and at first she seems game - but she likes less and less how she's treated by Hoff and company, so despite her promises to Charles, she soon becomes a threat to the whole operation - and now Charles, who has so far played turncoat to get where he is today, finally has to choose sides, and whichever he chooses, it won't end pretty ...


Now it cannot be denied, The Big Knife is not the subtlest of films as the play it's based on isn't exactly free of melodramatics and Hollywood clichées. And with its only very limited sets and lack of complex physical action the movie can't denie its stage origins - and that said, having graduated from TV to the big screen not long ago, director Robert Aldrich shows absolute mastery when it comes to directing: The film is incredibly tense throughout thanks to clever camerawork using many an unusual angle, film noir lighting, masterful editing and of course a genuine understanding of the medium. And that the cast (with Jack Palance giving one of his best performances) is uniformly first rate of course also works in the film's favour.

Not a totally rounded out masterpiece perhaps, but perfect in many a way!


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review © by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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Michael Haberfelner


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