Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Big Combo (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Big Combo (1955)

In Joseph H. Lewis' melodramatic crime noir:

  • the opening scene of mobster hood-kingpin Mr. Brown's (Richard Conte) weak-willed, abused, and unwilling society blonde girlfriend Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace) in a strapless black dress, pursued through the dark underground tunnel of a boxing arena by two thugs Fante (Lee Van Cleef) and Mingo (Earl Holliman) - and then caught and appearing naked with only her bare shoulders visible - she told her captors that she didn't want to go back into the arena and join Brown: "I don't want to see the fights. I'm hungry. Call a cab"
  • the sadistic Mr. Brown's philosophy: "First is first and second is nobody"
  • the almost-prohibited suggestive scene of Brown kissing Susan in his apartment when she appeared bothered and told him: "I hate and despise you!" - he nibbled her ear, cheek, then neck, and then traveled behind her body and down out of sight, as the camera dollied in for a stunning erotic close-up
Mobster Mr. Brown's Erotic Kissing of Susan
  • the torture scene in which obsessed police detective Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde), who had been tailing Susan Lowell for six months (in order to bring down Mr. Brown), was tormented through a hearing aid (and loud magnified sounds) - and then forced to drink a bottle of 40% alcohol-based hair tonic
  • the psychological suicidal meltdown of Alicia (Helen Walker) hiding out in a sanitarium - she was Mr. Brown's estranged and supposedly-murdered wife, who was tracked down by Diamond and confronted with witnessing Brown's murder of his former mob boss Grazzi, seven years earlier; she cried out to be left alone: "Please! Please, I'm sick! Can't you see I'm sick?" - Diamond responded: ("You're sick all right, Alicia. Sick with fright. Now you're in our custody, you have nothing more to fear. You know that, because you're perfectly sane"); Alicia yelled out that she didn't want to be "sane and dead": ("I'd rather be insane and alive...than sane and dead")
  • the death of Brown's right hand, second-in-command - the hearing-impaired Joe McClure (Brian Donlevy), during a failed ambush attempt to betray his boss and take over; when caught in the act, Joe begged for his life from Mr. Brown before being gunned down (execution style) by Brown's two thugs: ("Wait a minute. What's the matter, you fellas gone loony? I'm McClure. Can't you see me? This is McClure! Don't do it, Mango! I'll give you dough! All the dough I got! $10,000! $20,000! Everything. No, Fante! Don't do it! Mr. Brown! Mr. Brown! Mr. Brown, tell them not to do it! I'll do anything you want, I'll go away! You'll never see me again! Please, Mr. Brown! Don't just stand there and let 'em kill me! Please, Mr. Brown. I don't want to die, tell 'em! Please tell 'em"); to ease his death, Brown offered to take away McClure's hearing aid: ("I feel sorry for you, Joe. So, I'm gonna do you a favor. You won't hear the bullets"); from McClure's POV, the blasting machine-guns lit up the darkness
  • the film's climax in a dark, fog-shrouded airport hangar when Brown (who was attempting to make a getaway with Susan) was delayed by his late-arriving plane, as he ranted: ("What's keeping that plane? It was supposed to be here an hour ago. I've kept that stupid pilot on my payroll for years, just for a spot like this. Why doesn't he come?...Why doesn't he come? I got everything all figured out. Top to bottom, smooth as silk! Everything's falling apart! You can't trust nobody! Nothin'!"); when Diamond pulled up and revealed him in headlights, Brown was confronted: ("Come on out, Brown! You can't get away, Brown! You can't get away, drop the gun"); even though Susan illuminated Brown in a spotlight, Brown resisted arrest and refused to go to jail: ("Come and get it!...You're not taking me to jail! You'll have to kill me first! Go ahead, shoot! Go ahead. Kill me, Copper! Kill me! Go ahead! Kill me! Kill me!l..I won't go to jail! I won't! Shoot!")
  • the iconic image of the silhouetted Diamond and Susan facing each other, after Brown was apprehended

Susan's Pursuit from Boxing Arena and Capture by Brown's Thugs

Torture of Detective Leonard Diamond

Brown's Wife Alicia in Sanitarium: "I'd rather be insane and alive than sane and dead"

Murder of Brown's Partner McClure

Arrest of Mr. Brown at Airport During Getaway Attempt

Concluding Silhouettes


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