Review: The Big Clock
Blu-ray: The Big Clock (1948)
I love Charles Laughton, he’s one of those actors, I suppose not really known or even in vogue now, that with the slightest twitch of his face, can emote a million feelings. He’s been in so many of my favourite films (Spartacus, Hobson’s Choice amongst many others) and I was amazed I’d never even heard of The Big Clock.
Laughton plays Earl Janoth, boss of George Stroud (Ray Milland looking incredibly handsome), editor-in-chief of Crimeways magazine, based in a building that has the largest and most sophisticated clock ever built.
Stroud is eager to go on honeymoon with his wife Georgette (Maureen O’Sullivan) and their son..he’s postponed for five years due to the unrelenting demands of his boss Janoth.
Janoth wants him to stay and follow up on a missing persons story Stroud has just cracked, but Stroud refuses and Janoth fires him.
On finding his wife has left without him, Stroud goes to a bar to drink and meets Janoth’s glamorous mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson), who proposes a blackmail plan against Janoth.
The story then takes us through a night of boozing, meeting lots of ‘witnesses’, stealing a green clock and outbidding a wonderful Elsa Lancaster (Laughtons real wife, you might know her as the Bride of Frankenstein) for a painting of hands.
Stroud and York go to York’s apartment, but she sees Janoth arriving, and sneaks Stroud out before Janoth sees him. However, he sees someone leaving but doesn’t know who it is. He believes York has a lover which leads to an argument and finally Janoth kills York with the green clock/sundial.
Janoth goes to his assistant, Hagen (George Macready), and tells him what happened and he and Hagen agree to frame the mystery man Janoth saw leaving York’s apartment for the crime.
Janoth decides to use the resources of Crimeways to find the man, calling Stroud back to be his main investigator.
Beautifully shot, this is more of a crime caper than all out noir, and director John Farrow uses Milland’s hatred of Laughton (Laughton was gay, Milland a ‘man’ who was disgusted by him, apparently he was physically repulsed by him to the point of not wanting to be anywhere near him, leading to Laughton touching him on screen at every opportunity) to great effect.
Laughton twitches and his rubbery face looks clammy. Elsa Lancaster as the artist gives a suitably whacky performance and instead of being annoying is actually delightful.
As usual the extras on the Arrow disc are top notch, the best being the amazing Simon Callow’s insight into Laughton (check out his book ‘Charles Laughton – A Difficult Sctor’ it’s a great read).
I have to admit that as the years go on I’m finding Arrow’s ‘academic’ commentaries and documentary extras on the films they release – Boring. Watching a talking head yap about the minutiae of the deep meaning of a film makes me switch off. I much prefer Indicators extras, which have extras like the Simon Callow talk, and give an insight into the making of the film from people that were there, knew the person or aren’t an academic!
Fab film, really enjoyed it.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
- Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
- Turning Back the Clock, a newly filmed analysis of the film by the critic and chief executive of Film London, Adrian Wootton
- A Difficult Actor, a newly filmed appreciation of Charles Laughton and his performance in The Big Clock by the actor, writer, and theatre director Simon Callow
- Rare hour-long 1948 radio dramatization of The Big Clock by the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Ray Milland
- Original theatrical trailer
- Gallery of original stills and promotional materials
- Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Christina Newland
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