Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich, 1955) B-

For what it's worth, I don't think there's another director (besides Sirk in The Tarnished Angels) who used black and white photography in such ways like Robert Aldrich did with both Autumn Leaves and this film. The contrast is crisp and clear and ultimately beautiful to look at. I wish the same could be said about the film. The Big Knife is a solid picture and there are hints at what could have been in some of the performances (Jean Hagen and Shelley Winters do what they can with underwritten roles). The biggest problem with this film is that the screenplay acts like its some sort of formal authority about life in the 50's, "The Great American Screenplay," when in all actuality it's nowhere near as interesting or damning as it thinks it is. We learn from this film that studio chiefs are ruthless, cold people who will do whatever it takes to keep their stars in line and get the most money out of money. Even then, that wasn't exactly the most original thought in the world (The Bad and the Beautiful had been released three years previously) and I wish there had been some more creativity with its intentions.

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