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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

 

directed by Joseph H. Lewis
USA 1955

 

By 1955 film noir was nearing the completion of its ‘cycle’ (generally held to end with 1958’s Touch of Evil - thereafter we’re talking ‘revival’ or neo-noir). So it’s not surprising to find this late entrant is surprisingly modern: crime is now corporatised and suspects wind up dead (by the hands of suspicious associates) after being merely visited by the protagonist cop, a neurotically obsessive loner. In the 1940s a visit from Bogart meant he would rough you up himself.

That’s not to portray The Big Combo as some antediluvian Dirty Harry. With cameraman John Alton’s cinematography mapping its highlights this flick is unmistakably noir. Its plot turn to unearth the meaning behind one whispered name – ‘Alicia’ - is not only explicitly Kane-esque, but in tune with noir ’s preoccupation with memory and buried secrets.

Director Joseph H.Lewis is best known for Gun Crazy, a late-40s precursor to His-and-Hers crime sprees like Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands. Away from Alton’s bravura compositions, which kick in right from the opening titles (themselves an adrenalin rush of nighttime cityscapes and melodramatic 50s jazz) the film’s exposition is static, even flat at times. My theory is that cinematographer Alton effectively directed the film’s highlights. For chilling point-of-view can anything top the silent barking of the assassins’ tommy guns as the victim’s hearing aid is ripped away? Alton’s fingerprints are also undeniably all over The Big Combo’s famous final shot where, echoing Casablanca, the two survivors walk together (but not touching) side by side into the all-enveloping fog that is their future.

 Excerpt from Roger Westcombe's excellent review located HERE.

Posters

Theatrical Release: 13 February 1955

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 Comparison:

Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Olive Films - Region 'A' - Blu-ray vs. Arrow Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for all the DVD Screen Caps!

1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray FOUR-H

5) Arrow Film - Region ''B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

 

 

Distribution Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC

Image Entertainment

Region 0 - NTSC

Alpha
Region 0 - NTSC
Olive Films - Region 'A' - Blu-ray Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:23:45 (FROM PAL source) 1:27:36 1:27:09 1:27:52.267 1:27:29.452
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.88 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.25 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.9 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 19,355,206,022 bytes

Feature: 19,271,755,776 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 26.99 Mbps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,534,003,575 bytes

Feature: 27,162,379,008 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.83 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Geneon Entertainment

Bitrate:

 

Image Entertainment

 

Bitrate:

 

Alpha

 

Bitrate: Olive

Blu-ray

 

Bitrate: Arrow

Blu-ray

 

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono)

English (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono)

DTS-HD Master Audio English 817 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 817 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

Subtitles None None None None English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Geneon Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• None

 

DVD Release Date: October 26, 2004
Slim transparent case

Chapters 20

Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: February 1, 2000
Snapper Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Alpha

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• None

 

DVD Release Date: October 26, 2004
Keepcase

Chapters 7

Release Information:
Studio: Olive Films

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 19,355,206,022 bytes

Feature: 19,271,755,776 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 26.99 Mbps

Edition Details:

• none

Blu-ray Release Date: September 24th, 201
3
Standard Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 8

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Films

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,534,003,575 bytes

Feature: 27,162,379,008 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.83 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Eddie Muller
• Geoff Andrew on The Big Combo, the critic and programmer offers an introduction to and analysis of the film (19:20)
• Wagon Wheel Joe: A visual essay on director Joseph H. Lewis by filmmaker David Cairns (19:00)
• The Big Combo original screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)
• Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow for all films
Hardback book featuring new writing on all the films by noir experts and critics including Michael Brooke, Andrew Spicer, David Cairns and Tony Rayns and more [Limited Edition Exclusive]

DVDs of all 4 films!

Blu-ray Release Date: November 20th, 2017
Custom Blu-ray Box
Chapters: 12

 

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Arrow Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - November 17': Arrow's Four Film Noir Classics Limited Edition has The Dark Mirror, Secret Beyond the Door..., Force of Evil, and The Big Combo. They are not sold separately by Arrow at present and are only available in this boxset. There are other Blu-ray releases, like the Olive Films edition here, that we will compare to, eventually.

Limited Edition set of only 2000 copies!

The Arrow transfer appears to be from the same source with the same 1.78:1 framing but the UK has a max'ed out bitrate - it is authentically darker and the damage visible on the Olive is not as prominent on the Arrow. The Arrow is, predictably, better.

Arrow is also better than the Olive in the audio - Arrow's 24-bit linear PCM mono vs. the DTS-HD Master (16-bit) track. The film has only a few aggressive effects but we get another wonderful 'dark cinema' score from David Raksin (Daisy Kenyon, Whirlpool, Fallen Angel, Laura, Bigger Than Life) sounding crisp and impressive in the uncompressed. Arrow also add optional English (SDH) subtitles (see sample below) on their Region FREE Blu-ray disc.

Arrow generously add a new commentary by the 'Czar of Noir' Eddie Muller. Wonderful. Geoff Andrew on The Big Combo, the critic and programmer offers an introduction to and analysis of the film for 20-minutes and a similar length visual essay, entitled Wagon Wheel Joe, on director Joseph H. Lewis by filmmaker David Cairns. The disc has The Big Combo original screenplay as a PDF file and the package offers reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow for all films and a hardback book featuring new writing on all the films by noir experts and critics including Michael Brooke, Andrew Spicer, David Cairns and Tony Rayns and others.

Great release in what look like an amazing Noir package!

***

ADDITION: Olive Films - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - September 13': The same source (as the Alpha and Image Ent. for sure) with the exact same light scratches. It improves with the benefit of the higher resolution (tighter, brighter) and another big difference is that it is now widescreen at 1.78;1 showing more information on the two edges of the frame - we lose some off top and bottom. Composition looks more correct now. I expect The Big Combo was shown widescreen theatrically, in some theaters, in that transition period of the mid-late 50s. Anyway, this is far from a perfect image but it is certainly ahead of the DVDs - most notably in the contrast and showing grain. It is cited as being 'Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the Film Foundation'. Thanks goodness.

No subtitles or extras and the lossless mono audio is another step forward - although it has issues similar to the DVDs but a tinge more depth. Overall, I am happy (and wasn't expecting to be overjoyed) - this is primo Noir and ideal to have in the best possible home theater presentation. Fans will be appreciative!  

***

ADDITION: Geneon Entertainment - Oct 05' - after seeing the WildSide video logo (cat) in the opening sequence of the Geneon Edition I was anticipating the worst. It, almost unbelievably, is taken from an unconverted PAL source.  This, the newest digital edition of this Public Domain film is quite poor with the only factor in its favor being the price. It doesn't even have menus or a real keepcase. The screen grabs may not show in direct comparisons to these other editions, so we have added one ghosting capture at the very end. All three are quite poor releases but if we are forced to choose it might be the Image Entertainment that is the lesser of the '3 evils' presentation-wise although it obviously has also had some manipulation, but factoring in the cost and limited availability of the Image edition, most consumers may want to go for the Geneon until a someone releases a superior edition... one day, we hope.  

***

Chroma is evident on Image release, but the contrast is better and blacks are truer compared to Alpha disc. The damage spots are identical for both editions (lips in capture #2, neck in capture #5), but Image disc doesn't suffer from interlacing (capture #4). Both titles don't have any supplements, so it's ridiculous to charge over $20 for it when there's another version available. Hopefully, like another Image film noir Dark Waters, which went out of print for a short period, The Big Combo will be re-released in a keep case with $14.98 list price.

 - Gregory Meshman


 Menus

NO MENUS on Geneon Entertainment


(Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)


 

 

Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample - Arrow Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Arrow Film - Region ''B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Arrow Film - Region ''B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Arrow Film - Region ''B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Arrow Film - Region ''B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Arrow Film - Region ''B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Alpha - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Geneon Entertainment combing/ghosting sample...

1) Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Olive Film - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 


Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

 

Box Covers

 

 

 

Distribution Geneon Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC

Image Entertainment

Region 0 - NTSC

Alpha
Region 0 - NTSC
Olive Films - Region 'A' - Blu-ray Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray


Hit Counter


Report Card:

 

Image:

Arrow Blu-ray

Sound:

Arrow Blu-ray

Extras: Arrow Blu-ray


 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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