Bigger Than Life (1956)

NICHOLAS RAY

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

USA, 1956.  Twentieth Century Fox.  Story and Screenplay by , , based on the New Yorker article by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

A happily married schoolteacher (James Mason) is beset by pain and forced to see a doctor about it; he discovers that he has a rare form of nerve disease that will kill him very soon unless drastic measures are taken. His doctors decide to experiment with the brand-spanking-new medicine cortisone but it too has its adverse effects: the medication is keeping Mason alive, but sadly it is also turning him into a sociopathic monster who is terrorizing his wife and son with mood swings and paranoid outbursts. This wonderfully emotional drama by Nicholas Ray features a bigger than life performance by Mason in the lead and some impressively subtle work by as his beleaguered spouse. Its treatment of the world of medicine is less impressive, something out of a bad 1950s public health newsreel that simply cannot age well, but the drama still works and Ray’s talent for creating powerful, memorable images never fails him.

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