Scrupulous police detective Dave Bannion (Ford) targets mobster Mike Lagana (Scourby) after a colleague's suicide note implicates him in corruption at the city-government level. In response, Lagana's men plant a car bomb meant for the snooping cop, but instead kill Bannion's wife, prompting the enraged lawman to seek vengeance.
This brutal, in-your-face noir thriller about organized crime and political graft by German expatriate Lang is about as hardboiled as they come. For starters, the dialogue is sharp and blunt, like a smack in the jaw, and Ford's portrayal of the obsessed Bannion is downright fearsome. "Heat" is particularly memorable for two performances: Lee Marvin, as psychotic henchman Vince Stone, and the peerless Gloria Grahame, as a sultry moll whose face Marvin cruelly disfigures — with a cup of scalding hot coffee! Crisply paced and unrelentingly fierce, "The Big Heat" is one steamy ride.