Bigger Than Life (1956) (1956)
Movie InfoA seriously ill schoolteacher becomes dependent on a "miracle" drug that begins to affect his sanity.
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Critic Reviews for Bigger Than Life (1956)
The suits wanted a torn-from-the-headlines melodrama; what they got was the director at his expressionistic best, subverting the suburban fantasy and leaving nothing but tattered gray flannel and scorched earth in his wake.
James Mason has picked a powerful subject for his first 20th-Fox production and delivers it with quite a bit of dramatic distinction in carrying out the supervisory duties and as the male lead.
It's hard to think of another Hollywood picture with more to say about the sheer awfulness of 'normal' American family life during the 50s.
Those who remember the creeping terror and eeriness of Mr. Roueché's real-life yarn will be sorry to learn that there is little terror or eeriness in the film.
A masterful melodrama whose aesthetic beauty works in service of a stinging social critique.
...is a dark cautionary tale about suburban ennui that feels like an unacknowledged antecedent to the AMC TV series Breaking Bad.
The epitome of a social problem film, in which the "crisis of conformism" bursts open in every single tension-producing frame.
It's all horrifying, and its eerie resemblance to the McCarthy-esque paranoia and fear that swept the nation makes Bigger Than Life extremely powerful.
a surprisingly expressionistic horrorshow, a frightening and indelible portrait of the nuclear family turned into a hellish emotional torture chamber
The film is a tricky mix of glossy Technicolor realism and elevated expressionism that feels both marvelously classic and aggressively modern.
The sort-of picture-perfection of the suburban home...is a tenuous cover for the unpredictability of life, the short distance between the American Dream and the American nightmare. [Blu-ray]
Ed's vision is demented and distorted, and yet, Ray insinuates, doesn't his protagonist, in an odd way, see through the smug mediocrity that is 1950s America?
Always a shrewd melodramatist, with a particular eye for the domestic space, Ray builds this sense of conflict into the Avery home itself, with its frequently competing horizontal and vertical patterns.
A commercial flop at the time, Ray's 1956 film, made right after Rebel Without Cause, is nonethless one of his most poignant and visually compelling critiques of American suburban life, featuring James Mason in top form.
It was as much undervalued and misunderstood as the films Douglas Sirk was making at the time.
Audience Reviews for Bigger Than Life (1956)
wow. james mason is seriously frightening as he slowly loses his grip on reality due to prescription drug addiction. a great look under the idyllic facade of the 50'sMore
Bigger Than Life is a movie I've looked forward to for a few years since seeing Martin Scorsese's Journey Through American Movies. Seeing James Mason in the throes of psychosis about to murder his son and claiming GOD WAS WRONG for not having Abraham kill Isaac was enough to add this to my must see list. Bigger Than Life is a hell of a lot like a Douglas Sirk movie with less saturated colors and slightly less melodrama. Mason is great as the All-American dad who goes nuts after getting addicted to cortisone and Walter Matthau as his plot device/friend. As good a job as Mason did in his decent into madness, Nicolas Ray's direction was the real standout here. Worth the ride if you can get your hands on it.More
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