powered by AFI
The working title of this film was The Hoodlum. The film's opening title cards read: "Allied Artists Pictures Corporation presents Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace in The Big Combo by Philip Yordan." Although the Copyright Catalog incorrectly lists the film's copyright date as February 13, 1954, onscreen credits and the copyright record correctly list it as February 13, 1955. According to a June 23, 1954 Los Angeles Times item, Yordan's original screenplay "was in great demand with reported bidders, including United States Productions, Russ-Field, Frank P. Rosenberg and Edward L. Alperson." The article claimed that Yordan had "turned down offers of as high as $75,000 plus a percentage" for his script.
According to a August 31, 1954 Daily Variety news item, Jack Palance was originally cast as "Mr. Brown," but was replaced by Richard Conte after Palance insisted that his then wife, Virginia Baker, be cast in the film. Hollywood Reporter news items include Peter Ortiz, Charles Victor, Morgan Windbiel and Diana Darin (also known as Thelia Darin) in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. A June 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the picture would be made in Eastman color, but the film was photographed in black-and-white. Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts noted that the picture was shot at the Kling Studios, while a December 23, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the music scoring was done at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios.
The picture marked the first production of Theodora Productions, which was owned by actor Cornel Wilde and his wife, Jean Wallace, and Security Pictures,Inc. headed by Yordan and producer Sidney Harmon. A number of reviews singled out the scene during which "Lt. Leonard Diamond" is tortured by "Mr. Brown" for comment, with the Daily Variety reviewer terming it "particularly brutal" and the Hollywood Reporter critic calling it "as nerve-wracking as anything seen on the recent screen."