|Ray Milland, keeping his eyes open for cats and mice|
The Big Clock is the story of George Stroud (Ray Milland), the editor-in-chief of Crimeways magazine, which is just a small part of Earl Janoth's (Charles Laughton) publishing empire. Janoth is a demanding boss, seemingly devoid of human emotion, save his fondness for words that end in "-ways;" his other magazine all have that in their title to brand them, like Fashionways, Futureways, and probably Sideways. Cue rimshot.
|Earl Janoth: charming|
|News magazines: as glamorous as you imagined|
The acting in The Big Clock is solid, but a little dated. While I liked Ray Milland's character at the start of the film --- it's hard to dislike charming, intelligent and quip-friendly characters --- I didn't particularly care for his portrayal of a man on the run. He went from fairly suave to obviously shifty-eyed in a matter of minutes. Granted, I would feel off if I realized I was being hunted by a murderer, but Milland's anxiety was conveyed in a heavy-handed manner. The most frequent example of this is whenever someone around George makes an observation about their unidentified suspect that accurately depicts George or his actions on the night before, Milland's eyes dart from side to side, a la Pong.
|Does this look like a guilty man?|
|"It's my artistic interpretation of your colon health"|
I wasn't terribly impressed with John Farrow's direction, but he had some inspired moments. I especially liked the first scene with Janoth, as the camera subtly moved around the room, like the eyes of an anxious Janoth underling. Unfortunately, there were many more choices I was less impressed with. The Big Clock is another classic film noir that is told in an extended flashback; I understand the desire to get the audience immediately interested in what happens with the plot, but I hate hate hate the presumption that quality storytelling isn't enough to compel an audience to sit tight and see what unfolds. I can understand the extended flashback if it gives a character the excuse to narrate (as in Double Indemnity), but the opportunity is wasted in The Big Clock. With George scheming to save his own neck, this could have been a great opportunity for clever narration --- I would have loved to hear his reasons for assigning certain people to certain tasks in the Janoth manhunt --- but instead, we are stuck with some lackluster bookend narration. I also felt that the additional humor was uneven and distracting from any suspense the main plot was trying to build. I also didn't care for the ending, but it was in the novel that way; I would have preferred some deviation from the source text, but I've seen stupider mindless devotion to the source.
|I wonder who is supposed to be evil?|
While not the strongest film noir entry I have reviewed to date, the acting talents of Ray Milland and Charles Laughton are more than enough to make this watchable. Sadly, there are too many missed opportunities to make The Big Clock film as good as the book.