Directed by: John Farrow
Countries & Regions: United States
Length: 95 mins
Region: Region 0
Released: 23 August 2010
Cat No: ODNF220
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The Big Clock
Classic thriller starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton. When Earl Janoth (Laughton) kills a woman in the heat of an argument, he... Read More
"Trouble? You don't know the meaning of the word," Ray Milland bitterly informs a passer-by, as his wife leaves on their belated honeymoon without him. Well neither does he. Not yet. But in 24 hours he'll have a pretty good idea, trapped like a rat in a cordoned-off building as the evidence piles up against him and the police move in.
Milland plays the editor of a crime magazine specialising in tracking down missing persons. So when his tyrannical publisher Charles Laughton disposes of mistress Rita Johnson with one conk from a table-top sundial, it's Milland he turns to, asking him to sniff out the only witness, hoping to pin the crime on him. Unfortunately the witness is Milland himself, and he's left fighting for his liberty and his life, the titular time-piece counting down his last seconds of freedom.
This is a knockout, noir-tinged thriller in the classic tradition, throwing a good man into a hellish situation, then watching him desperately trying to escape. The man tightening the knot in your stomach is director John Farrow, later responsible for the flawed but dizzyingly-inventive films noir Where Danger Lives and His Kind of Woman. This one bears the hallmarks of his best excursions into the genre: mounting disorientation, offbeat humour and a bit where the screen goes all woozy.
Milland had made his name in romantic comedy, but by the mid-'40s was showing a flair for darker fare, winning the Best Actor Oscar for his role as an alcoholic writer in Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend. The Big Clock calls for him to play persecuted, but allows for a dash of warmth and a touch of comedy. "I see a stranger coming into your life - a woman of mystery," Johnson says, caressing his palm. "Huh," replies Milland, "does she know I'm married?"
Farrow's film - remade in 1987 as No Way Out - is a super suspense yarn, lit by ingenious plotting, cracking direction and a stellar cast. Laughton is the standout as the megalomaniac villain, but his off-screen wife Elsa Lanchester isn't far behind, offering an uproarious portrayal of a modern artist, while Harry Morgan is impressively ominous as a mute masseur-cum-hitman.