T. it.: Il grande coltello. Sog.: dal dramma omonimo di Clifford Odets. Scen.: James Poe. F.: Ernest Laszlo. Mo.: Michael Luciano. Scgf.: William Glasgow. Mu.: Frank De Vol. Su.: Jack Solomon. Int.: Jack Palance (Charles Castle), Rod Steiger (Stanley Shriner Hoff), Ida Lupino (Marion Castle), Wendell Corey (Smiley Coy), Jean Hagen (Connie Bliss), Ilka Chase (Patty Benedict), Everett Sloane (Nat Danziger), Wesley Addy (Horatio ‘Hank’ Teagle), Paul Langton (Buddy Bliss), Nick Dennis (Mickey Feeney), Bill Walker (Russell), Mike Winkelman (Billy Castle), Shelley Winters (Dixie Evans). Prod.: Associates and Aldrich Company 35mm. D.: 111’.
The Big Knife is adapted from a play by Clifford Odets which had some success on Broadway, and which Jean Renoir plans to bring to the Paris stage. […] We may well wonder if it is interesting to make films out of plays, especially, as in this case, if the director doesn’t allow himself to adapt them freely. I believe it’s natural for a filmmaker, fascinated by the technique of his own art as well as possessing experience in the theater, to be tempted to stamp and embellish a play with a certain literary quality, shaping it by using the endless possibilities of cinematic editing. […] With his lyricism, his modernity, his contempt for the slightest vulgarity, his desire to universalize and stylize the subjects he treats, Aldrich’s effects remind us constantly of Jean Cocteau and Orson Welles, whose films he cannot have missed seeing. The action of The Big Knife is moved forward not by the interplay of emotions or of actions, but only – and this is both rare and more beautiful – through exploration of the moral construction of the characters. As the film progresses, the producer becomes more and more the producer, the starlet more and more the starlet, until the moment of shock and explosion at the end. Films of this kind need exceptional acting, and in this case we are more than satisfied by Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Shelley Winters, and especially Rod Steiger, who plays the producer magnificently. He is a patriot, a democrat, both fierce and sentimental, completely mad. Aside from presenting a very exact picture of Hollywood, The Big Knife is the most refined and intelligent American film we have seen for a number of months.
François Truffaut, The Films in My Life, transl. by Leonard Mayhew, Simon & Schuster, New York 1978