Bigger Than Life Screen 5 articles

Bigger Than Life

1956

Bigger Than Life Poster
  • BIGGER THAN LIFE feels like it should be included among the mad rush of anxiety-ridden science fiction films of the time. Just as overblown and beautiful as Ray's perverse western JOHNNY GUITAR, BIGGER THAN LIFE is it's own kind of perversion—it's what would happen if The Dick Van Dyke Show had been left to rot.

  • No indictment of experimental medicine, Bigger than Life is instead a profoundly disturbing reminder of our flawed flesh and blood and our precarious mind and spirit, as well as a withering review of patriarchy. If Bigger than Life’s fifties America critique had been made at any later date, it would undoubtedly come across as a histrionic indictment of an earlier era; the film’s power comes from the fact that it’s a dispatch from its time.

  • Bigger Than Life is a film filled with such contradictions, such paradoxes and confusions of emotion and reason; indeed, these are part of what makes it big and ugly and beautiful as life, even in its outsized proportions. And these proportions are measured first and foremost by James Mason, whose perfectly vivid realization of Ed Avery gives the film its minuteness and scope.

  • Mason's big looming shadow, the increasing prominence Ray gives to the staircase—Death from Above—makes perfect sense, really, given that the "miracle drug" set-up marks this as literally a 50s science fiction film. (Truffaut: "Ray wanted to show the public that it is wrong to believe in medical miracles and 'miracle drugs,' since any one of them, just like the atom, can both save and destroy.") Ed Avery, Suburban Godzilla, ravaging an entire rectangular landscape of modest consolation prizes.

  • Mason’s gift for cold-eyed madness is heightened by Ray’s exuberantly lurid approach. He films Ed’s jaundiced world view with cocked angles and shock cuts and invokes the clash of slovenly good cheer and tyrannical order with a palette that sets decorous neutral tones against the acid colors of corrosive passion and the eerie fluorescence of the little purple bottle at the heart of it all.

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