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USA 1948
Directed by
John Farrow
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Big Clock

This superior B-grade crime thriller features one of Charles Laughton's most memorably sociopathic performances, as the megalomaniacal media tsar, Earl Janoth, a caricatural descendant of Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane who, in a fit of jealous rage, kills his mistress (Rita Johnson) and then tries to cover it up. Inextricably caught up in this scenario is family man George Stroud (Ray Milland), a crime journalist who works for Janoth.

Well-scripted by Jonathan Latimer from a novel by Kenneth Fearing with excellent photography by John F. Seitz, The Big Clock is both a worthy addition to the “anti-capitalist” category of films pioneered by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926) and a solid thriller that makes skilful use of motif of the clock and related temporal devices in its telling. Although sharing characteristics of the film noir (George Macready who plays Janoth right-hand man was one of the stars of the noir classic, Gilda, 1946) with the central concept of a hero trapped in a vortex of deception instigated by a larger evil, the film is not entirely of the style, there being quite a bit of jocularity thrown into the entertaining mix.

The film was quite the family affair with Farrow’s real-life wife, Maureen O'Sullivan (mother of Mia Farrow), playing Stroud’s wife and Laughton’s wife, Elsa Lanchaster playing a scatty bohemian painter. Whilst the overall standard of the film is very good, for most audiences it will be Charles Laughton's evil capitalist boss that will win the palm. 

FYI: The film was remade (heavily disguised) as No Way Out (Roger Donaldson, 1987) with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman but with much less satisfying results.

 

 

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