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Big Clock, the

Ray Milland , Maureen O'Sullivan , John Farrow    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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What if you were asked to investigate a murder in which you were the prime suspect? From this seemingly impossible notion comes a grandly entertaining nail-biter. Charles Laughton plays the punctuality obsessed, slave-driving head of a publishing empire who won't let his crime magazine's star editor (Ray Milland) take a day off to spend with his family. The overworked Milland, having just upset a delayed honeymoon trip for the umpteenth time, goes on a sorrow-drowning, bar-hopping bender with a mysterious woman who, it turns out, is Laughton's mistress. Later that night after Milland has gone home, Laughton murders her, and the next day he assigns Milland to investigate, since a number of clues point to her having spent time with another man that night. Milland, then, must not only find the real murderer but sidetrack the investigation away from himself. That both characters are solving the crime in tandem yet unwittingly working toward pinning the murder on each other is at the heart of The Big Clock's labyrinthine brilliance. Helping bring out the dark humor in this adaptation of Kenneth Fearing's noir novel (included in the Library of America's Crime Novels collection) is Elsa Lanchester as a high-strung painter who can sketch the prime suspect (Milland), a time-bomb plot device that only adds to the already unbearable suspense. This is a taut, lean thriller, superbly handled by director John Farrow, who never fails to remind his audience through repeated use of clocks, timepieces, and watches that all too often in our lives that ticking sound is the enemy. This was remade in 1987 with Kevin Costner as No Way Out. --Robert Abele

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
It is a real pleasure to rediscover obscure films from years ago which are still of interest today and "The Big Clock" (made in 1948) falls into this category and is well worth seeing again. At the start of this compelling thriller we find Ray Milland hiding in the "Big Clock" of the title wondering to himself how he ever got involved in murder and deception when he is just a hard working married man devoted to his family and career and completely innocent of any crime. As was usual in forties films at that time we now go into a lengthy flashback which explains everything. Ray Milland plays George Stroud who is the crime editor for "Crimeways Magazine" which specialises in solving real life crimes. Charles Laughton is Earl Janoth, head of the Janoth publishing empire which produces many successful magazines including "Crimeways". George accidentally meets up with Pauline York (Rita Johnson) in a bar unaware that she knows Janoth and is in fact his mistress - George spends the evening with her and goes back to her apartment. Unfortunately he is seen with the girl in several places quite publicly so when she is later found dead in her apartment Stroud finds himself falling under suspicion. Janoth forces Stroud to investigate the case but his personal involvement with the girl means that many witnesses can identify him as being with her on the night she was murdered. He has to use all his investigative skills to keep himself in the clear and track down the real murderer. Wife Georgette Stroud (Maureen O'Sullivan) is not very sympathetic as she is anxious to take the family on holiday (and plans to do so with or without George). Elsa Lanchester has a very good cameo role as Louise Patterson, an eccentric artist who plays a significant part in the unfolding drama. Read more ›
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2.0 out of 5 stars Awkward and unbelievable Dec 27 2002
Format:VHS Tape
A disjointed, lesser noir flick, featuring Charles Laughton as an all-powerful publishing magnate who seeks to pin a murder he committed onto one of his trusted employees. Ray Milland plays the clever editor slated to take the fall; the film flounders as Milland makes dumb mistake after dumb mistake: getting drunk with his boss' mistress, lying to his wife about his whereabouts and generally blundering about making things worse. The growing pile of evidence against him is meant to ratchet up the suspense, but there direction and script are both so poor that the story seems preposerous and never picks up speed. Laughton's performance is adequate, Milland is a bit irritating. Elsa Lanchester has a supporting role as a kooky modern artist, and a young Henry Morgan (later known as Colonel Potter on TV's "MASH") plays a silent hired thug. Skippable.
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By J. Lovins TOP 50 REVIEWER
Paramount Pictures presents "THE BIG CLOCK" (9 April 1948) (95 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- A woman has been murdered, and a witness has a description of a suspect leaving her apartment --- A magazine editor (Ray Milland) knows that he is the man that the witness saw - but he's innocent, and he must investigate the crime and pretend to search for the suspect --- He only has an hour to nail his boss, the real killer (Charles Laughton), before being identified himself --- Maureen O'Sullivan (Mrs. Farrow) helps him out, George Macready is Laughton's evil sidekick, and Elsa Lanchester turns up in a brief, but funny and marvelous bit part.

Milland's performance is great as he runs the spectrum of behavior from a sort of affable cockiness in the beginning, to severe anxiety as the suspense builds --- Charles Laughton is simply amazing as always --- His Janoth character is a detestable autocrat, yet his rakish behavior coupled with a vermouth dry sense of humor makes him the core delight of the film.

Under the production staff of:
John Farrow [Director]
Jonathan Latimer [Screenplay]
Kenneth Fearing [Novel]
Richard Maibaum [Producer]
Victor Young [Original Music]
Daniel L. Fapp [Cinematographer]
John F. Seitz [Director of Photography)
LeRoy Stone [Film Editor]
Roland Anderson [Art Director]
Hans Dreier [Art Director]
Albert Nozaki [Art Director]

1. John Farrow [aka: John N.B. Villiers-Farrow] [Director]
Date of Birth: 10 February 1904 - Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Date of Death: 28 January 1963 - Beverly Hills, California

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5.0 out of 5 stars Ray Milland has an appointment with suspense July 2 2006
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Happily married or would be if he was not a workaholic George Stroud (Ray Milland) works for a crime magazine publishing company. The megalomaniac owner and ironfisted controller of the magazine is Earl Janoth (Earl Janoth). Earl's mistress Pauline York (Rita Johnson) insults him one too many times and in a fit he dispatches her. Now who can he pin the dirty deed on? Sure the uppity George Stroud. To make matters worse it seems that Stroud, who tells his wife (Maureen O'Sullivan) he was working late, was actually seen as the unnamed man by several witnesses in the presence of Pauline.

Looks like it is curtains for Stroud. He just keeps getting in deeper and deeper. Time is getting scarcer as we watch "The Big Clock". I see no way out. Do You?

This black and white film based on a novel by Kenneth Fearing with screen play by Jonathan Latimer could have easily been a Hitchcock. You will want to own a copy to fine the nuances' mist the first time around.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Weak Transfer for this Gripping Film Noir
"The Big Clock" is a brilliant labyrinth of dark humor and cyclical twists and turns - rather like riding a funhouse car into the murky blackness of uncertainty but with... Read more
Published on March 5 2005 by Nix Pix
2.0 out of 5 stars THE BIG CLOCK IS A BIG LETDOWN
I remember this movie from years back, and thought it was a pretty nifty noir thriller. A repeat viewing reveals it to be a bit on the trite side. Read more
Published on July 6 2004
"The Big Clock" is a brilliant labyrinth of dark humor and cyclical twists and turns - rather like riding a funhouse car into the murky blackness of uncertainty but with the... Read more
Published on July 6 2004 by Nix Pix
5.0 out of 5 stars The Big Clock
Thrilling "Film Noir" type mystery. Ray Milland works for a magazine publisher who commits a murder. All the clues however point to Milland as the killer. Read more
Published on May 7 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars In the noir style but doesn't take itself so seriously
This movie is arguably not a true film noir since it doesn't have the feel or theme of what the purists would term a bona fide film noir. Who cares? I don't. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2003 by Minneserenity
3.0 out of 5 stars More suspense than stylish noir
If it didn't gain notoriety on its own, mthen a little-known Hollywood noir movie such as this serves its purpose as providing a brilliant plot for a later blockbuster remake. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2002 by Desiree Koh
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best movie I have ever seen.
I've seen a lot of movies, more than you're average film student. I'm not a film student, I'm not a film critic, I don't work in Hollywood, but I know what's good... Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2002 by ortenzia
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!!
This guy knew how to make movies. It's no wonder so many so called movies nowadays are remakes of the old timeless classics. Doesn't anyone know how to WRITE anymore?! Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars The Clock's Ticking!
John Farrow's "The Big Clock" is one of the great noir films of the 40's. The downside is many people have 1) rarely seen it. 2) Many haven't even heard of it! Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2001 by Alex Udvary
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