Criterion Collection: Bigger Than Life [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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A schoolteacher becomes violently addicted to a new wonder drug, cortisone. Directed by Nicholas Ray.
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Top Customer Reviews
One of the side-effects of Cortisone is that it causes a feeling of euphoria which can be addictive as in the case of Ed Avery, performed brilliantly by James Mason. Ed Avery is a model of middle-class suburbia, a school teacher with a wife and son and on the the surface they appear to be happy. The drugs effects release him from this vision of marital bliss, the American dream of the nuclear family and in the process he becomes a tyrant.
Like "Rebel Without A Cause" it sets out to undermine what is regarded as suitable 50s morality. Nicholas Ray along with Douglas Sirk were masters at handling this sort of material and with this film Ray utilises wonderfully expressionistic lighting, cinemascope and gorgeous colour to achieve his objective. This somewhat rare film which was a failure upon it's release is highly recommended.
Jean-Luc Godard in 1963 placed this film in the top 10 American sound pictures up to that point.
James Mason (Odd Man Out,1947; A Star is Born,1954)
Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide,1951; It Came From Outer Space;1953)
Walter Matthau (A Face in the Crowd;1957)
Joe McDonald (My Darling Clementine,1946; Niagara,1952; How to Marry a Millionaire,1953)
The BFI DVD transfer is excellent.
Nicholas Ray's use of CinemaScope (a format Mason despised but which was forced on him by the studio) is exemplary and unfussy, as is his use of light and camera angles - as Mason's ego expands, he is shot from lower angles, while even his shadow towers over those of the rest of his family in the same room. There's also a beautifully staged scene as a still gentle Mason follows his wife through the house turning out the lights in amorous pursuit, oblivious to her suspicions that he's having an affair - not to mention a great lecture on moral values at a PTA meeting as Mason offers his new near-Nazi theory of education. Great stuff and great to see it here in its original CinemaScope ratio.Read more ›
Very highly recommended.
A box office flop on release, the film was considered controversial with its attack on the nuclear family residing in conformist suburbia. Yet today many modern day critics, coupled with high praise dealt by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard & François Truffaut, has given the film a new lease of life. So much so it's considered by some to be an ahead of its time masterpiece. While I personally think that masterpiece is a bit too strong a statement, there is no denying that Ray's movie is a potent piece of work backed up by yet another magnificent turn from James Mason.
Excellently adapted by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum from a New Yorker article written by Berton Roueché, the film is also technically smart. Shot in Cinemascope, Ray & cinematographer Joseph MacDonald brilliantly use bold colours and expressionistic shadows around the domestic home to convey atmosphere and meaning. But it's with the story, and its subsequent interpretations that Bigger Than Life soars high on the interest scale. There's many musings on it available at the click of a mouse, from critics prepared to go deep with it, to a thought process delivered by the genius that was Truffaut himself. They are there if one is inclined to peruse either prior or post viewing of this most intriguing picture.
Me? I have my own thoughts, but that's the point, and the thrill of diving into a film of this type. To form ones own interpretation and to then open up to other perspectives is one of cinemas great little peccadilloes. See this if you can. 7.5/10
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Masterful cinema until the ending which I was not satisfied with..awwwww all these happy endings.ZZZzzZZPublished 12 months ago by Nice_Lieutenant
Some will pick Johnny Guitar, others will pick Rebel without a cause but for me Nicholas Ray's best movie is this. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Brendan Keane
Kind man turns paranoid when prescribed innovative drugs for his illness. Treats subject well.Published 17 months ago by John Orchard
Yet another example of where the filmmakers find it difficult to let the drama speak for itself. In places one could close their eyes and imagine themselves in the Royal Festival... Read morePublished on 10 May 2014 by Asio flammeus
Top actors, top storyline, just overall a brilliant film. Quite a dark film as well but definitely a must see for any film fan!Published on 16 Mar. 2013 by Daryl J Griffin
Ed Avery (James Mason) is a typical (though idealized) 1950s husband and father who is facing serious health problem. Read morePublished on 6 May 2012 by Kona
An astonishing piece of work and one of the seminal films of the 1950s, Nicholas Ray's view of an archetypal suburban family, seemingly perfect on the surface, that briskly... Read morePublished on 13 Oct. 2011 by The CinemaScope Cat