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The Big Clock [Import] [Import USA Zone 1]
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First UK DVD release of this 1948 classic thriller from Universal Pictures. Based on the novel The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing and starring Oscar winners Charles Laughton and Ray Milland. George Stroud, (Ray Milland) executive editor at Crimeways magazine, is involved with the wrong woman - his boss's. When Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), his boss, kills her in an argument, he begins to cover his tracks and frame an innocent man, whose identity he doesn t know but was seen outside her home just before the murder. Janoth knows someone saw him, but not who. He puts Stroud in charge of finding the unidentified witness but the trouble is that Stroud was the missing man... --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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Looks like it is curtains for Stroud. He just keeps getting in deeper and deeper. Time is getting scarcer as we watch "The Big Clock". I see no way out. Do You?
This black and white film based on a novel by Kenneth Fearing with screen play by Jonathan Latimer could have easily been a Hitchcock. You will want to own a copy to fine the nuances' mist the first time around.
The Big Clock (New York Review Books Classics)
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Milland was edging into middle age and this added to the authority he brought to the role. Although he still had the charm and light comedy springingness, he is believable as a quick-thinking potential victim.
Laughton is first rate. In a couple of scenes he scurries to the elevator or across a hall and looks like a fat, dangerous spider. He helps define Janoth's character as an indulgent, morally corrupt egoist by touching his mouth and grooming a small, ridiculous moustache with a little finger.
Rita Johnson plays the mistress and is terrific. She's shrewd, sexy and sophisticated. She didn't have much of a career and, according to IMDb, apparently had a death worthy of a noir movie.
George Macready plays a smart, cold, condescending lawyer whose ethics are flexible. His range may have been be limited, but Macready was one of Hollywood's great character actors.
You might be able to find an old, used paperback of the book by Kenneth Fearing. He was a good poet who never made it. In the three or four mystery/novels he wrote he uses the device of having the characters speak for themselves in the first person, each to his or her own chapter. It takes getting used to but it becomes quite effective. Dagger of the Mind and The Loneliest Girl in the World also are very good and also, I suppose, long out of print. If you like mysteries (or dead American poets), give him a Google.
Kevin Costner's No Way Out was based on the book and this movie. In the ring, I'd give Milland over Costner on points by a wide margin; Laughton over Hackman on points but close; Macready over Patton by a knockout in the sixth; and Johnson over Sean Young by a knockout in the first. And this version over the other by a knockout in the fifth. No Way Out's conclusion is, for me, unsatisfying because it drains sympathy from the Costner hero. In The Big Clock, the ending is satisfyingly concluded with an elevator shaft and, later, a hug and a laugh.
The DVD transfer is quite good considering the age of the movie, and shouldn't be a reason for not getting the movie.
Some favourite lines from the film:
Ray Milland: "More guards, the lobby's sewed up like a sack - and they said shoot to kill. They mean you George, you. How'd I get into this rat race anyway, I'm no criminal - what happened - when did it all start?".
Milland (to Charles Laughton): "Wouldn't you steal something if you wanted it badly enough?".
Laughton (to George Macready): "Everybody knows me".
Elsa Lanchester (to Milland): "Never mind, Mr Stroud, I've few enough collectors without sending one to jail".
Charles Laughton won the Best Actor Oscar in 1932 for his role in "The Private Life of Henry VIII". Laughton was a very distinguished British actor who appeared in many prestigious films and directed the splendid "Night of the Hunter" in 1955. Ray Milland deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar for "The Lost Weekend" (directed by Billy Wilder in 1945). Milland had a long and successful career both as an actor and later as a director. Maureen O'Sullivan is best known for her role as "Jane" in the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films. She was married to John Farrow (director of "The Big Clock") and one of her daughters is of course the actress Mia Farrow.
George Stroud (Milland) works for a publication that somehow manages to break cases before the police do. He is also suppose to go on his honeymoon with his wife Georgette (Maureen O' Sullivan) which is long overdue ( they now have a 5 year old son!). But, his boss Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton) wants him to postpone his honeymoon. Claiming he'll give him higher pay and a month's vaction. But George knows his wife will kill him if he's not there ready to leave with her lol. Now, one thing leads to another ( I don't want to give anyway too much of the plot). But George ends up missing his train and spends the night with Janoth's mistress! Later on that night, he finds that Janoth's mistress is dead! Was it murder? Well, all directions point that way since George saw Janoth go into Pauline York's (Rita Johnson) apartment. In an attempt to cover up his actions, Janoth tells George he has to solve the case before the police get involved. "The Big Clock" has a great musical score by Victor Young, nice cimatography by Daniel L. Fapp & John F. Seitz. And, fammed costume designer Edit Head does wonderful work. All of these things give this movie the "classic" noir feel to it. There are good, solid performances by everyone, and nice directing by Farrow. This is a very pleasurable film to watch on one of those rainy, dark nights, that just feels like watching a noir film. One of the best noir films I've ever seen.
THE TRANSFER: The gray scale is solid, deep and rich blacks and very smooth looking whites. There are instances where contrast levels appear somewhat low and fine detail seems slightly out of focus. Often there's a muddy quality to the image. Occasionally pixelization breaks apart the background information - but only briefly and usually between dissolves. There's also a minor hint of edge enhancement that is barely noticeable. The audio is mono but very nicely cleaned up. There are no extras.
As its title and format (Stroud flashbacks to the past 36 hours) suggest, THE BIG CLOCK is obsessed with time, and the first third of it is filled with impatient people telling others that they're late, or they have exactly one minute to present their proposal, or telling another they'll be there at 4:30 sharp. Boss Earl Janath (Charles Laughton) is the worst, of course, docking pay when someone leaves a light bulb unchanged and forever messing around with that oily moustache of his. A pathological attention to detail isn't the worse thing to foster in a crime magazine staff that prides itself on its investigative abilities, although it doesn't help that this highly trained and talented staff is investigating a crime that their innocent editor Stroud seems guilty of.
THE BIG CLOCK is a fun movie, a game of wits between Janath and his minions and Stroud with a plot that twists and careens and makes us forget some of the more serious plot holes. For a suspense crime thriller director John Farrow liberally peppers the movie with comedy. The main characters play it straight, but there are a number of humorous secondary characters, and Elsa Lancaster as an abstract artist with a story to tell and a picture to paint is a totally comic character. The humor works, but it tends to succeed at the expense of the tension. The transfer print is in very good condition and was easy on the eyes. Strong recommendation.