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Big Clock, The 
Written by: on August 18th, 2010


Theatrical Release Date:
USA, April 9th, 1948
Director: John Farrow
Writer: Kenneth Fearing (novel), Jonathan Latimer (screenplay)
Cast: Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson, Elsa Lanchester, Harold Vermilyea, Dan Tobin, Harry Morgan.

DVD released: August 23rd, 2010
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Fullscreen
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £9.99


Workaholic editor of Crimeways magazine George Stroud (Ray Milland) is finally about to give his wife a belated honeymoon, 5 years late due to his boss; publishing tycoon Earl Janoth’s (Charles Laughton) slavedriving work practices. Janoth however wants Stroud to follow through on his latest big story but Stroud stands his ground and quits rather than disappoint his wife yet again, unfortunately he misses the train home and his wife leaves on honeymoon without him. Depressed and angry he goes on a bender with Janoth’s slutty disgruntled mistress Pauline York (Rita Johnson). At the end of the night Stroud leaves her apartment and sees Janoth arrive as he sneaks out the back. Janoth confronts Pauline about her supposed infidelities and in the midst of a blazing row he kills her. Janoth and his lackeys decide to frame the man that was with Pauline for her murder, for this however they will need to rehire their best investigator; George Stroud! So begins a cat and mouse game as Stroud desperately tries to find evidence of the real killer before his own team discovers he was the mystery man out on the town with the murdered woman.

Directed by John Farrow and adapted from Kenneth Fearing’s popular potboiler thriller novel this is an excellent ‘big business noir’. Not least because of it’s sterling cast with Ray Milland as the beleaguered man on the run, with the added twist that he is essentially chasing himself. The always watchable Charles Laughton as the rich and powerful murderer and smaller but no less well-played turns from the likes of Mauren O’Sullivan (director Farrow’s wife) as Mrs Stroud and even Elsa Lanchester (Laughton’s wife and The Bride Of Frankenstein herself) as a dotty artist that can identify the alleged killer.

The storyline certainly takes it’s sweet time to get going with the first third of the film playing as a 40′s big business flick but then Laughton and Milland could just sit about reading their shopping lists and it would still be compelling viewing! When the murder does eventually take place it becomes a much more entertaining and clearly noir-like thriller with shades of jet black humor beating back the miserabilist nihilism that pervaded most noirs of this period. Just when you think it can’t get any better Henry Morgan (MASH’s Colonel Sherman Potter) pops up as a mute, crazy-eyed assassin/masseur in Janoth’s employ! By the end Stroud is trapped in Janoth’s Metropolis-like building and at the mercy of ‘the corporation’ with a massive surreal clock ticking down the minutes – shades of Gilliam’s Brazil (40 years before that film would be made) loom over poor Stroud’s story.

The film was remade by Roger Donaldson in 1989 as No Way Out starring Gene Hackman and Kevin Costner with the storyline transposed to the world of Washington politics but this original just goes to prove that the post-war noir’s can’t be beat.

The DVD:

The full frame transfer looks very good indeed for a film of it’s age; slightly soft image but details are pretty good overall, blacks are solid with fair contrast levels and there is very little noticeable grain or dirt/print damage. The mono audio track is clean and clear with only a little minor background noise throughout.

The only extras are a short photo gallery and an original theatrical trailer – this short trailer is an excellent little look at 40′s promo-making with Milland and director Farrow giving a filmed radio address; Milland actually reads from the script by way of a teaser and Farrow actually praises his own film as a masterpiece of suspense!

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