January 3rd, 2011: The Big Clock

Cast and Crew: John Farrow (Director); Maureen O’Sullivan, George MacReady; based on the novel by Kenneth Fearing

What It’s About: When Crimeways magazine editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) is assigned to find a murder suspect by his tyrannical boss Earl Janouth (Charles Laughton) there’s just one problem:  Janouth is the murderer, and the man he is looking for-the man he hopes to frame-is Stroud himself.  Can Stroud mislead Janouth long enough to remain free (and alive)?

Why Watch it Today?: Star Ray Milland was born today in 1907 in Wales.  Through his long career Milland created many memorable characters, including starring roles (The Lost Weekend, The Uninvited) supporting roles (Beau Geste, Love Story, Dial M for Murder) and, late in his career, roles in horror and sci-fi films (X:  The Man with X-Ray Eyes, Panic in Year Zero, Frogs).  Whether he was giving Oscar-winning performances or playing the head of a racist transplanted onto the body of Rosie Grier, Milland always gave his all.  Milland’s Stroud is just flawed enough to keep him interesting, while Laughton is wonderful as his smarmy, ruthless, overbearing boss.  Look for Elsa “The Bride of Frankenstein” Lanchester as the painter on whose flighty shoulders Stroud’s fate comes to rest, and M.A.S.H.‘s Harry Morgan as Laughton’s man-servant/masseuse/thug.  You will never look at Morgan the same way after seeing him give Laughton a sexually charged back massage.  The Big Clock is an unjustly forgotten Film-Noir thriller, and one of the rare films that successfully balances comedy and thrills.  The Big Clock was remade in the 1980s as No Way Out.

Where to Get It:  Rent it from Netflix, or buy it on DVD from Amazon.com:

The Big Clock (Universal Noir Collection)

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