Arrow Video, with domestic sales and distribution expertise provided by MVD Entertainment Group, has tabbed Aug. 29 as the release date for a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack edition of director Robert Aldrich’s 1955 film noir interpretation of playwright Clifford Odets’ 1949 Broadway play, The Big Knife.
Jack Palance, who was riding high during this period with Best Supporting Actor nominations for his performances in Sudden Fear (1952) and Shane (1953), took over for John Garfield (stage play) as film star Charlie Castle.
Since Aldrich produced the film, with the screen adaptation handled by James Poe (nominated for four Oscars for his writing — Around the World in 80 Days, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Lilies of the Field and They Shoot Horses Don’t They? — with a win for Around the World in 80 Days), so he signaled the importance of the release by opening it at the Venice Film Festival in September of 1955. It won the Silver Lion and opened theatrically the following month.
Charlie Castle (Palance) is a movie star, a big star, with an estranged trophy wife (played by Ida Lupino), who wants to control his career (shadows of Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland legal battles with their respective studios), but his efforts to do so are frustrated by studio boss Stanley Shriner Hoff (Rod Steiger), who has the “dirt” on his star (an auto accident). Hoff’s studio “henchman,” Smiley Coy (played by Wendell Cory), keeps Castle in line and eventually Castle simply gives up (literally).
Others in this star-packed cast include Jean Hagen and Shelley Winters as Castle love interests, with Winters the target of a murder plot (she got on the wrong side of Smiley Coy), and Everett Sloane as Castle’s ineffectual agent.
This new 2K restoration (from the original film elements) includes a new film commentary by film critics Glenn Kenny (Premiere and the Village Voice, among others) and Nick Pinkerton (Film Comment) and the 1977 documentary short titled Bass on Titles (Saul Bass prepared the film’s unique title sequence).