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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Big Knife (1955)

Hollywood has a penchant for making movies about itself. And the painfully obvious message in most of them is--SPOILER ALERT: It's a not very nice place filled with awful people! Duh, right? But if you can get past that plain fact, some of these pictures, like this very good entry from director Robert Aldrich, have much to recommend themselves. This one starts with an outstanding cast where everyone is giving it all they've got. Jack Palance plays one of his rare non-villain roles as a sensitive leading man, a big star who's put his career playing rote rolls in sub-par (but successful) westerns and boxing movies ahead of his family life and suffering wife, Ida Lupino. She and his obsequious manager (Everett Sloane) are the only two people in his corner. The rest of the cast are all out for a piece of his flesh. The slimy studio chief, a howling and teeth gnashing Rod Steiger, and his fixer, low-keyed and lethal Wendall Corey. Ilka Chase is a nasty Hedda Hopper-like gossip columnist who only wants some salacious copy and Jean Hagen and Shelley Winters are two Hollywood bimbos who both hold some secrets on Palance that could wreck his career. At times talky and overwrought, this adaptation of Cifford Odets play still delivers the goods because, well, don't we love to seeing all those rich and beautiful people suffer just a little for all the good fortune they've been given? You betcha.

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