HANGOVER MATINEES: Hollywood Gothic - The Big Knife

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Live Set from DJ Mean Mr. Mustard!

“For many years now, capitalism at its extreme, and Hollywood in particular, has been as ghastly and murderous as anything Shakespeare and Webster wrote.”— Clifford Odets

Clifford Odets’ fall from Golden Boy of the leftist New York theatre scene to an underutilized studio contract writer (his last screen credit was for an Elvis movie) is one of the classic stories of squandered Hollywood talent. The Big Knife was his return to the stage, and a fantastic excoriation of the Hollywood rot and corruption. It’s the story of a failing actor stuck making wrestling movies, who just wants to retire in peace, but… they keep pulling him back in. Adapted for the screen by director Robert Aldrich, The Big Knife features some of Odets’ best trademark poetic dialogue this side of Sweet Smell of Success, and an unforgettable, overheated performance by Rod Steiger (in a hilarious parody of Columbia head Harry Cohn, known to manipulatively weep crocodile tears in negotiations) as the manipulative blowhard studio head who pulls all his strings. Written with a brilliant poison pen, and directed with a harsh full-frontal style that jabs the points home, there are few Hollywood Gothics as cutting as The Big Knife.

Dir. Robert Aldrich, 1955, 35mm, 111 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!