Bigger Than Life

Bigger Than Life

DVD - 2010
Average Rating:
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When a friendly, successful suburban teacher and father is prescribed cortisone for a painful, possibly fatal affliction, he grows dangerously addicted to the experimental drug, resulting in his transformation into a psychotic and ultimately violent household despot. "This Eisenhower-era throat-grabber, shot in expressive CinemaScope, is an excoriating take on the nuclear family. That it came in the day of Father Knows Best makes it all the more shocking -- and wildly entertaining."--Jacket.

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wow, tell us how you really feel ( comment directly below this one). this film didn't succeed for me, either, but i am not so disappointed as (comment directly below this one). i guess i have become comfortably numb about big themed movies being unable to deliver on what they promise to. i doubt a director like Spike Lee could have done any better with such a premise. I'd like to see what Marty Scorcese could do with such a project as this, giving the lead to Robert DeNiro of a decade or so ago. And, how about casting Joan Allen as his wife? Did you miss the Jerry Mathers cameo early on? You can't miss the excellent dark lighting and shadows, for this is Ray's forte. Didn't Mason always have a dark side lurking beneath that urbane surface? So, with the Jekyll/Hyde premise, it makes sense to see Mason unleashing his negative personality, especially with a drug to excuse it. What, you've never known a 'speed freak,' a 'meth head'? How about living with an alcoholic prone to blackouts, when he beats his wife, and can't recall it next morning? (alcohol is a drug, you know) yes i am saying the movie is best seen as a metaphor for what can and does happen to human personalities undergoing drug abuse.

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biffblack
Mar 10, 2018

Godawful!!! This movie bombed during its 1950s initial release for one glaringly obvious reason -- it's terrible. The script plays like sub-basement Douglas Sirk: it's all as stiff as cardboard until the real craz-ee strikes, but by then most sensible persons -- long since bored out of their minds -- will have tuned out. The premise that cortisone could induce psychosis I find risible. Admittedly, there's a demented bravura to the scene where Mason tries to stab his son. Nicholas Ray can't direct actors; his only real facility in storytelling lies in the occasional camera placement that splits the frame in a thought-provoking way. Even so, this attempt to stage a horror movie within deliberately banal, middle-America USofA settings falls gratingly FLAT. Most of Ray's films were boring & dreadful. His only enduring success, Rebel Without a Cause, came about through Stewart Stern's masterly script and 3 great leading actors who required no direction -- not that Ray had any to give. Bigger Than Life manages to be even duller than In a Lonely Place, though not quite as tawdry. The Criterion Collection booklet essay, penned by some hack going by the pen name B. Kite, sets a new (low) standard for unbearable pretentiousness.

gordonma Jun 07, 2017

What once was scandalous in the 1950s, seems as apt and as terrifying as ever in the 2010s as a devoted family man, given months to live, begins a slow and frightening descent into drug-addiction and mental illness. It's a shame that the film, its message, and James Mason's performance were shunned in North America upon the film's release. The film might be forgotten today were it not for the acclaim of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. I, however, will never forget that game of football.

o
Onewhoissaved
Sep 19, 2016

A note before I start my blog. The comment by 'lukasevansherman' that "God was wrong" disgusts me. Disrespect to the Lord may be permitted by some people but not by me.-------"Bigger than Life", 1956, stars British actor James Mason as a married teacher with a son. The teacher gets a life threatening condition which is treated by the poorly understood drug Cortisone. The drug winds up changing Mason, making him psychotic to such an extent that he nearly murders his own son. The transformation of a loving father and husband is painful to watch but so well acted. Where the film falls down is its' ending. What happens to him if he stops taking the cortisone? We don't find out. Excellently acted film. Barbara Rush is beautiful! Walter Mathau is perfect as the nasal voiced athletic coach. Mathau does not have the kind of personality anyone wants to have themselves but someone has to grudgingly respect.

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lukasevansherman
Oct 31, 2015

"God was wrong."-James Mason in "Bigger than Life"
A rediscovered 50s melodrama with a demented streak. The great James Mason stars as an unassuming schoolteacher whose prescription meds turn him into an arrogant, raging megalomaniac. You don't have the buy the premise to enjoy Mason's transformation from meek teacher to egotistical alpha male. His scenes with his hapless son are especially potent. Mason's so good that everyone else just kinda fades into the background, including Walter Matthau in an early role for him. It's half-great and half-ridiculous, but certainly a shocking film to have been made in the 50s, which was probably why it was a flop. Directed by Nic Ray, who was beloved by the French auteurs and also explored ennui and madness in the suburbs in "Rebel Without a Cause." Extras include an archival interview with Ray and an appreciation by novelist Jonathan Lethem.

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KingKongKool
Mar 25, 2013

Released in 1956 - It seems that Bigger Than Life's subject matter of mental illness and drug addiction was considered to be too controversial for its time and as a result of that this eye-opening film was initially a box-office failure._____ This intense, tightly-scripted, impressively directed Drama concerns the effects of what happens when schoolteacher and family man, Ed Avery (after being diagnosed with a rare inflammation of the arteries), begins to take cortisone tablets as a possible cure. (This was at a time when cortisone was still in its experimental stages in the field of medicine)_____ Ed soon begins to misuse the intake of the cortisone pills and, before long, he's experiencing wild, irrational mood swings that inevitably lead to a psychotic episode which threatens the very safety of his family._____ Featuring a really superb cast, Bigger Than Life was directed by Nicholas Ray, who had also directed Rebel Without A Cause.

Malarie Oct 25, 2012

I really enjoyed this movie. James Mason was a hoot once the movie and the (cortisone) kicked in! Talk about delusions of grandeur. I laughed long and hard when he gave the milk man a piece of his mind!!! lol

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