The Big Knife
Movies about Hollywood don’t get more caustic than this. Released in 1955, the year after the final death knell of the studio system, it’s a searing indictment of old Tinseltown made in the style of a film noir. Directed by the great maverick Robert Aldrich (responsible for the brutal Mickey Spillane adaptation Kiss Me Deadly the same year), it’s based on the play by then blacklisted writer Clifford Odets (who scripted the equally dark showbiz expose Sweet Smell of Success two years later) as adapted by James Poe (who would pen the corrosive WWI drama Attack! for Aldrich the following year). If those impressive credits don’t convince, consider hard-men Jack Palance (more than filling the shoes of Burt Lancaster, who turned down the lead) and Rod Steiger play, respectively, a movie star who wants out of the system and the studio mogul who happily resorts to blackmail to hold onto him. The film genuinely lives up to its title. No extras.