Blu-ray Review: The Big Clock



If you’re glued to Turner Classic Movies on Sunday morning watching Noir Alley hosted by Eddie Muller, you’ll want to dig deeper during the rest of the week. The Film Noir presents harshly lit black and white world of post-World War II America where desperation and dreams smash up against each other. Luckily over the last few years quite a few of the films from this era have been getting upgraded to Blu-ray so fans can relish the detail into characters lurking in shadows. Sometimes it seems like there’s not enough time to take in this bounty, but luckily The Big Clock has arrived to make the viewing seem timeless.

The movie doesn’t tease with the title. There is a very big clock. The time piece sits in the middle of the lobby of a Janoth Publications headquarters in New York City. It keeps track of the time in cities around the globe and might be more accurate than any clock in the world. And late one night George Stroud ( Dial M for Murder‘ Ray Milland) has to hide inside this massive clock. Why? Because of something that started 36 hours before. Stroud is the editor of Crimeways magazine and a star of the empire run by Earl Janoth ( Mutiny on the Bounty‘s Charles Laughton). Stroud is the most sensible of the editors of the magazines during a board meeting. Stroud has boosted readership for his crime mag which pleases Janoth. He’s come a long way from being a broke writer in West Virginia. He’s finally got enough money to give his wife (Tarzan and His Mate‘s Maureen O’Sullivan) the honeymoon he promised her years ago. Except that goes bad when Janoth demands he cancel the vacation time and focus on a follow up to a popular cover story. Stroud can’t just give in and Janoth fires him. Everything gets weird when Stroud goes out for a drink with Pauline York (My Friend Flicka‘s Rita Johnson). She’s the mistress of Janoth and jokes about blackmailing him with Stroud. The now unemployed writer loses track of time with her until he ends up on her sofa. She notices Janoth’s car pull up outside her apartment and sends Stroud out the backdoor. Janoth gets a sense that there was a guy in the room before he entered. He’s sick of his kept woman keeping other men on the side. This leads quickly to a dark event that turns Stroud into the patsy for Janoth’s impulse when his Crimeways reporters begin tracking down leads. This is why Stroud is hiding inside a clock and wanting to clear his name before his time runs out.

This is one of those films that my old boss and major film collector Ray Regis always ran during his Film Noir class at film school. Part of the screening was also to show how the film was updated for Kevin Costner’s No Way Out. But the bigger reason was to give exposure to this masterpiece of the genre. Milland just nails the character as being the smartest man in the room who realizes almost too late that he’s going to be nailed as the killer by his own reporters. Charles Laughton is ruthless as a boss and a lover. He tries to use his violent outburst into a way nail a publication rival without knowing he’s really putting his own editor in the crosshairs. The Big Clock is a Film Noir that doesn’t waste a second on screen.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The new black and white transfer is rich in detail. Nothing gets completely lost in the darkness. The audio is Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM. It’s a clear enough soundtrack to hear the distant clock chimes. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin cover the background of the film and its impact.

Turning Back the Clock (23:01) is analysis of the film by the critic and chief executive of Film London, Adrian Wootton. He speaks of how the film doesn’t quite fit in the Film Noir guidelines, but it does. He talks of the original book and how it was adapted.

A Difficult Actor (17:31) is an appreciation of Charles Laughton by the actor, writer, and theatre director Simon Callow. He has a deep admiration for Laughton.

Lux Radio Theatre (59:03) is Rare hour-long 1948 radio dramatization of The Big Clock starring Ray Milland. This was part of how they teased people into wanting to see the film.

Original theatrical trailer (2:21) promises a lot of suspense. The trailer teases with a radio broadcast.

Gallery contains original stills, posters and promotional materials.

Arrow Video presents The Big Clock. Directed by John Farrow. Screenplay by: Jonathan Latimer. Starring: Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson & Elsa Lanchester. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 95 minutes. Released: May 14, 2019.

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