Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Big Knife (1955)



“Am I the worst oaf in the world?”
“The world's a big place. You're the worst one in my life.” 

            The Big Knife was not a bad film but it was not one of the greatest which is unfortunate in my opinion because the cast and acting was great and the story was very good. The slow pace is what kills it.
            The story is about the seedier side of Hollywood. It is not as good as Sunset Boulevard but it has the same feel. An actor named Charlie Castle (Jack Palance) has to renew his contract. His wife Marion (Ida Lupino) does not want him to sign because the studio and the head Stanley Hoff run his life and he is like a completely different person. Charlie agrees not to sign but when Stanley comes over he is like the Godfather and pressures and blackmails Charlie into signing for another seven years.
            So pretty much in two days Charlie’s life goes to crap. He has to force Marion to sit and listen to him that he loves her and he is trying to change and wants to. Hoff is trying to blackmail him that the papers will know about a hit and run accident that he was involved in but did not take the heat for. Charlie had a girl in the car with him named Dixie Evans (Shelly Winters) when the accident happened. To keep her quiet the studio put her under contract but she is starting to talk and Hoff does not like that. Hoff’s second in command Smiley comes up with the idea to have Dixie bumped off and put the blame on Charlie since he talked back to Hoff.
            In the end Charlie has no way out of what will happen to him since Hoff has planned to completely destroy his life and he truly does not want his family or anyone he knows to get hurt because of him.
            The story is better than I explained but since it moved so slowly trust me what I explained is all that happens in the hour and fifty-four minutes it runs for. I just left out some detail that would give too much away if I wrote it out.
            So as I said the cast was very good. Ida Lupino was excellent I have yet to see this woman in a bad role she was such a good actress. Jack Palance did a great job as Charlie I thought he was perfect although Richard Aldrich the director did not think so. Palance had the look. What I liked about him was that he was soft spoken and played the part just right he did not ham the character up which could have happened. Jean Hagen is like two scenes. She was the wife of Charlie’s friend who went to jail for him after the accident. Hagen will forever be the airhead Lina Lamont so whatever I have seen her besides Singin in the Rain is always be a shock to me but let me tell ya she was a big annoying tease to Charlie. But she was fabulous. Shelly Winters was so unbelievably annoying and horrible! I will leave my thoughts of her at this.
            The Big Knife for its time was a little risqué because it was taking a shot at the studio heads of the time. The character of Stanley Hoff was based off of mostly Harry Cohn and Louis B. Mayer. If you know anything about the two bosses you will notice the characteristics. To me Hoff was more like a mafia godfather than a studio exec. The story comes from the stage play of the same title and you can tell by the set up and the tone of the story. The Big Knife as I said is not a horrible film but its major flaw is that it is so slow. I would not go crazy looking for the film but if you ever happen to come across it give it a chance.