Big Combo, The (1955)

The Big Combo (1955), directed by Joseph H. Lewis.

Police detective Cornell Wilde hates a gangster with a white hot hate and has an unhealthy obsession with the gangster's girlfriend. Both emotions are tearing him up, ruining his judgment. The hood (Richard Conte: smart, smooth, vicious) understands the hate and even appreciates it, but is not so generous when it comes to the girl (Jean Wallace). A high body count ensues.

Effective hard-boiled film. The plot advances in fits and starts, but the ominous noir tone is very good. We see the continuing advance of violence and sadism during this period.

Cornell Wilde often has to play Ken dolls, but here he looks and acts like a real person. Many other familiar faces, including Brian Donlevy and Ted de Corsia.

Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman play a couple (in every sense) of hoods called "Fante and Mingo", names fans of Joss Whedon's Serenity will recognize.

David Raksin's score is bright, brassy and up front throughout the movie, particularly fine during the opening credits and montage, very 1950s. You need reeds for the sultry bits; a saxophone is traditional but Raksin uses a clarinet instead.