Release Date: Available Now
Director: Nicholas Ray
Writers: Cyril Hume, Richard Maibaum
Cinematographer: Joe MacDonald
Starring: James Mason, Barbara Rush
Studio/Run Time: Criterion Collection, 95 min.
Life-sized and all too prescient
It’s little wonder that Nicholas Ray—Hollywood’s most trenchant observer of 1950s American society, who splashed caustic critiques across the silver screen—was almost blacklisted.
What could parry the unanswerable questions raised by films like Rebel Without a Cause
and Bitter Victory
better than silencing the man doing the asking? Bigger Than Life
, like those two other films, deals with a barely sustained middle-class family. It stars the eloquent James Mason as an ailing teacher and father “cured” by an experimental drug, with side effects leading him to pierce the veneer of polite society and lash out at those around him, growing ever more monstrous with a pair of scissors and a Bible
in his hands. Ray’s film feels less like a mid-century relic and more like a too-late Cassandra call to our present pharmaceutically-doped and financially paralyzed state. Scathing, brusque and at times heavy-handed, Bigger Than Life
is still a bitter pill to swallow.