The Big Knife

Films of shadows and suspense, from film noir to Hitchcock

The Big Knife

Joined: September 11th, 2008, 4:18 pm

March 8th, 2018, 7:54 pm #1

Can anyone explain why this is referred to usually as a Film Noir? I don't get it. Great performance by Palance, but this living room-set play about a Hollywood star just doesn't seem to fit any of the criteria. I can't say I really liked the thing, either.
MacXoftheMounted.....................formerly known as Professor Von X
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davlghry
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Joined: January 7th, 2005, 11:47 pm

March 8th, 2018, 9:06 pm #2

I'd say it's marginal noir, possibly included because it was written by Clifford Odets who covered similar territory in SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS which is also marginal noir.  Also the director Robert Aldrich is associated with noir and so are most of the cast so maybe it's more like Noir Adjacent.
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Joined: September 11th, 2008, 4:18 pm

March 8th, 2018, 11:30 pm #3

Thanks. Lots of ingredients as you say, but the end product is zero Noir in my book. DVDBeaver even includes this in their ESSENTIAL NOIR list. I don’t get it.


Cheers,
MacXoftheMounted, formerly Professor Von X
MacXoftheMounted.....................formerly known as Professor Von X
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Dr Kelp
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Joined: November 27th, 2016, 2:34 am

March 8th, 2018, 11:40 pm #4

MacXoftheMounted wrote: Thanks. Lots of ingredients as you say, but the end product is zero Noir in my book. DVDBeaver even includes this in their ESSENTIAL NOIR list. I don’t get it.


Cheers,
MacXoftheMounted, formerly Professor Von X
I have the Encyclopedia of Film Noir and I bet 30% of them aren't noir, but thrown in there because it sounds better than crime film. Studios now put the noir label on any crime movie from the 40's or 50's to increase sales.
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davlghry
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Joined: January 7th, 2005, 11:47 pm

March 8th, 2018, 11:46 pm #5

Back when they were making film noirs, they didn't know they were making film noirs.  They were making crime movies or gangster movies or detective movies or mystery movies.  Film noir is a pretty wide umbrella but I think it's been good for obscure and little known films that might not get attention if they WEREN'T categorized as Film Noir (whether they are or not).
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Dr Kelp
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Joined: November 27th, 2016, 2:34 am

March 9th, 2018, 12:18 am #6

davlghry wrote: Back when they were making film noirs, they didn't know they were making film noirs.  They were making crime movies or gangster movies or detective movies or mystery movies.  Film noir is a pretty wide umbrella but I think it's been good for obscure and little known films that might not get attention if they WEREN'T categorized as Film Noir (whether they are or not).
agreed
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telegonus
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Joined: July 27th, 2006, 12:07 pm

April 1st, 2018, 5:51 am #7

Nah, The Big Knife is nearer to a "social consciousness" picture, like an upscale Hollywood version On The Waterfront in which nobody wins. Or nobody good anyway. It doesn't even have a noir look or feel to it, the way the also non-Noir Sweet Smell Of Success has. Somewhere between this and that is the Kazan-Schulberg  A Face In The Crowd, which to the best of my knowledge has never been called Noir or compared to it. The most noirish thing about The Big Knife are the shots of Jack Palance looking like he's having a wicked migraine headache behind the opening credits. The dialogue of this one is overripe in a non-noir manner, with overwritten speeches and too much special pleading a la Death Of A Salesman, as if Arthur Miller was the movie's creative consultant.
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Joined: September 11th, 2008, 4:18 pm

April 2nd, 2018, 3:19 pm #8

Yes, the only thing Noir about this one is the cast. I just hated this, likely because it's painted as a Noir. It ain't. And yet, I believe, DVDBeaver has it on their list of ESSENTIAL NOIR. I would really need an expert to tell me how this qualifies. If this is Noir, so is ALL ABOUT EVE.
MacXoftheMounted.....................formerly known as Professor Von X
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telegonus
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Joined: July 27th, 2006, 12:07 pm

April 3rd, 2018, 6:16 am #9

MacXoftheMounted wrote: Yes, the only thing Noir about this one is the cast. I just hated this, likely because it's painted as a Noir. It ain't. And yet, I believe, DVDBeaver has it on their list of ESSENTIAL NOIR. I would really need an expert to tell me how this qualifies. If this is Noir, so is ALL ABOUT EVE.
Truly, the cast is uber-noir. Not so much Jack Palance, not really a true Noir icon but most everyone else to one degree or another.
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blufeld
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Joined: March 21st, 2017, 4:34 pm

April 3rd, 2018, 3:15 pm #10

Would Film Noir fit into the category (I can't define it, but I know it when I see it)?
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davlghry
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Joined: January 7th, 2005, 11:47 pm

April 3rd, 2018, 3:26 pm #11

I've noticed that movies like THE BIG KNIFE sometimes get pulled under the Film Noir umbrella because they're intriguing films and appeal to the curiosity of Film Noir fans and others.  Marginal noir films are often shown in Film Noir programs and festivals because they're often obscure and hard to see and calling them "Film Noir" is a good way to show them again.  
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Joined: September 11th, 2008, 4:18 pm

April 3rd, 2018, 6:33 pm #12

I've noticed that, too... but this is a basically a play about a movie star having career/management issues... and it's all set in his living room.

No one can make me believe this is Noir. It's almost as if any black and white film made between 1946 and 1956 somehow qualifies as Noir to some people.
MacXoftheMounted.....................formerly known as Professor Von X
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telegonus
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Joined: July 27th, 2006, 12:07 pm

April 4th, 2018, 6:10 am #13

I guess it's the cast and the dark story the movie, based on a play, tells, that vibes noir for some people. The Palance character is trapped by fate,--as a movie star! 😄--we should all be so cursed. Palance isn't bad, Rod Steiger's over the top and for my money miscast; fun miscast, but still not the right guy to play an aging old school studio exec. Also, doesn't damn near everything end badly for everyone? That's noirish, too. None of this make The Big Knife Noir but it does show that it has some affinities. If it had a bigger budget, moved around; and if we could see the leading character someplace other than his living room,--a diner, a roadhouse, the Santa Monica pier--it might have a chance at being at least a little noir-like stylistically, but not as it is. Also, the Method style overacting and overemoting kill it for Noir. It's like the cast is playing Odets like Arthur Miller.
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Dennman
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Joined: March 28th, 2009, 9:10 pm

April 22nd, 2018, 10:40 pm #14

For me it JUST barely qualifies as a noir. Certainly not a traditional noir, but the themes of the protagonist making a choice that completely leaves him f***ed, and leads to his demise make it a noir. Charlie Castle (Palance) is in a spot in which, if he doesn't sign with Rod Steiger, being blackmailed he will go to prison. 
Of course the movie does have a filmed play vibe about it, is lacking in exterior location shots, but it's overall theme is very noirish. Corrupt Hollywood is a theme I've always enjoyed and like this particular film. That said, had someone like Robert Mitchum played Castle and Raymond Burr played the Steiger role, I doubt we'd be questioning this as a noir.
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telegonus
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Joined: July 27th, 2006, 12:07 pm

Yesterday, 11:41 pm #15

davlghry wrote: I've noticed that movies like THE BIG KNIFE sometimes get pulled under the Film Noir umbrella because they're intriguing films and appeal to the curiosity of Film Noir fans and others.  Marginal noir films are often shown in Film Noir programs and festivals because they're often obscure and hard to see and calling them "Film Noir" is a good way to show them again.  
I agree., Davlghry. The Big Knife, is one if just described by the story might seem like a Noir project. Also, if director Robert Aldrich had made it differently it might have "snuck in" (so to speak). I think of the 1947 Crossfire, which I don't personally regarded as Noir and yet those who do see it that way have my complete sympathy. It sure plays like a Noir. Yet due to its "preachy" aspects, inherent in the narrative, it's probably best to class it, such as it requires classification 😄, along the same lines as The Big Knife. One more like that, near to Noir but also a movie with a "message: the Robert Wise directed 1949 boxing film The Set-Up, which is saturated with Noir stylistics and arabesques, is set in a "down dirty" urban environment, and is chock full of seedy, unsavory characters. Yet is it Noir. I'd say borderline at best/ It's too much a sports film; and that it has a "message" is driven home, especially at the end. Great film, however one chooses to classify it. 
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