Released the same year as his brute immortal apocalyptic noir masterpiece KISS ME DEADLY, Robert Aldrich's shot-in-sixteen-days independent adaptation of Clifford Odets' THE BIG KNIFE is another brawny, visually declamatory explosive device, this time freewheeling in a kind of crazed baroque Elizabethan mania. Wild, wild times. I often watch Rod Steiger and think: this man is a genius and a colossal idiot.
The Big Knife is full of entertaining performances and vibrant language which justify a couple hours of your time. Unfortunately its not entirely satisfying and there's not exactly an abundance of likable characters around. It also felt a bit claustrophobic, but what do you want from a movie adapted from a play?
Hampered by a stodgy script that follows too closely Clifford Odets stageplay. Aldrich does his best to wring some drama and tension out of a script that seems more interested in spouting anti-Hollywood rhetoric than telling a compelling story. Strong characters played by a roster of 50s acting heavyweights - though Jack Palance and Rod Steiger go a bit too far over the top.