Friday, April 30, 2010
The Big Clock
Fantastic film noir! Ray Milland plays the editor of the largest crime magazine in America. He is ultra-career orientated. So much so that he has missed his honeymoon 5 years in a row. Charles Laughton plays the owner/publisher of the magazine for which Milland works. He has used his immense power and wealth to manipulate Milland into working to the point of destroying his personal life and marriage. Rita Johnson portrays Laughton's long-time mistress. They are having a difficult time in their relationship and she attempts to use Milland to blackmail Laughton. After Milland and Johnson spend the night barhopping she turns up dead. Laughton, in a jealous rage, has murdered his mistress in her own apartment. Milland saw Laughton at her apartment just before the time of her death.
Publisher Laughton also noticed someone leaving his mistress's apartment just as he arrives. He uses his staff, not knowing that his own editor, Milland, witnessed him at the crime scene, to find this missing witness. Laughton wants to frame him for the murder. Milland is forced to find himself to aid in his own framing. Can he elude the massive efforts of the Publishing millionaire? And, can Milland somehow find enough evidence to prove that his boss is the murderer? Before his own time runs out?
The Big Clock is classic film noir. A good man, played by Ray Milland, is tempted by a femme fatale, portrayed by Rita Johnson. Although he resists her temptation, he still ends up on the dark side and in massive trouble. Everything points to him, even witnesses, as the murderer. We know he did not do it, but the publisher's power and money are all working against him in a race against time. Evil, using a beautiful woman, is tempting good. Classic film noir.
Director John Farrow does a nice job of keeping the movie moving. The novel, by Kenneth Fearing, is much longer and more detailed. I like both, but for different reasons. This film is taut and suspenseful. The first half sets up the crime and all the participants. The second half races us toward the confrontation we all know is coming. The script adaptation, by Jonathon Latimer, aids in keeping the movie tight. Milland, Rita Johnson and Director Farrow's wife Maureen O'Sullivan all do fine jobs in their performances. But Charles Laughton steals the show. He is at his creepy best. Constantly checking the time and his schedule, harassing his employees and stroking his mustache all serve to make him even creepier. He is terrific here.
The Big Clock is a fine example of a 1940s film noir. Tight direction and script with classic characters and story line. And a running time of just an hour and a half. A wonderful diversion on a lonely night.
Filmed in 1948, directed by John Farrow, written by Jonathan Latimer, starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan and Rita Johnson. Look for a pre-Dragnet and MASH Henry Morgan. Also, check out the woman operating the elevator in the first sequence. She went on to be Lois Lane in the Superman tv series. Remade in the 80s as 'No Way Out' with Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young. The original is much better, but the remake has its moments.