Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956). Director: Nicholas Ray.

Ed Avery (James Mason) is a family man who finally goes to the doctor to see about his painful spells, and learns he will be dead in months unless he takes the new wonder drug, cortisone. Unfortunately the side effect of the drug (which he apparently abuses) is to make him egomaniacal, irrational, paranoid, and eventually homicidal and psychotic. The ending of the film is only moderately hopeful.

Frankly Bigger Than Life is a pretty depressing and completely unpleasant film that is virtually devoid of entertainment value. Mason gives a good enough performance, it's just that this stylish, elegant actor seems completely wasted in a role that could probably have been played just as well by Fred MacMurray (and it might have had more shock value)! Barbara Rush gives a lovely performance as his wife, however. Walter Matthau turns up as Ed's buddy in a more or less dramatic turn and he's fine. The movie is too tedious to be a thriller, it that's what was intended, and not strong enough to be much of a drama, either.

Verdict: Who wants to see James Mason in the suburbs? **.


Anonymous said...

I think the film is very powerful and Mason vividly communicates the despair of an intelligent man trapped in a mediocre environment.

William said...

Mason is always good no matter what he's in. Thanks for your comment! William