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The Big Clock

USA 1948
produced by
Richard Maibaum for Paramount
directed by John Farrow
starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson, Elsa Lanchester, Harold Vermilyea, Dan Tobin, Harry Morgan, Richard Webb, Elaine Riley, Luis Van Rooten, Lloyd Corrigan, Frank Orth, Margaret Field, Philip Van Zandt, Henri Letondal, Douglas Spencer, Bobby Watson, B.G. Norman, Joey Ray, Frances Morris, Harry Rosenthal, Ernö Verebes, James Burke, Lucille Barkley
screenplay by Jonathan Latimer, based on a novel by Kenneth Fearing, music by Victor Young

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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George Stroud (Ray Milland) is the best reporter of publishing tycoon Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton) true crime magazine, simply because he's the one who'll always find his man - much to his wife Georgette's (Maureen O'Sullivan) dismay, as he's hardly at home anymore. And she lets him know her dismay, too. So when Janoth wants to cancel Stroud's holiday which was to be his long delayed honeymoon, Stroud simply won't have it and lets Janoth fire him even. After being fired Stroud has the bad judgment though not to hurry home to his wife right away, but to go for a drink with a hot blonde, Pauline (Rita Johnson), Janoth's ex who holds a grudge against Janoth - and the two get along so splendidly that they continue drinking till late at night. Not that Stroud has any improper intentions with Pauline, and indeed nothing happens, but he does miss his train that would take him and his wife and son (B.G. Norman) to their holiday - and an angry Georgette does consequently take the little one and go without Stroud.

Stroud leaves Pauline's apartment just when Janoth arrives, and though he gets a look at his ex-boss (not vice versa), he thinks nothing about it and takes a train to catch up and make up with Georgette. Janoth though has a fight with Pauline and ultimately kills her. Then he calls his right hand man Steve (George Macready), and Steve fixes it that nobody will drag his boss into the affair. They actually hush up the murder for the time being and try to pin it on  the man Pauline has last been seen with via a cock-up story. And not knowing that that man was indeed Stroud, they try to get Stroud to track down the man. Of course, first Stroud turns them down for the sake of his wife, but once he learns he is actually in their crosshairs, he changes his mind - again to the dismay of Georgette, who doesn't know the whole story though.

Back at the office, Stroud does the best to obscure his involvement with Pauline, but the methods he has instated for tracking down missing persons are just too solid, and more and more witnesses show up who can perfectly describe him, and he needs to stay out of their hair not to be identified. Doing some research himself though, he finds out that Pauline has actually been murdered, and he gets a clue how serious things are actually - and then he's actually spotted by one of the witnesses but manages to get away before being properly identified, and the building is put under lockdown, with security searching floor after floor. In the meantime, Georgette has also arrived at the office, and she has by now found out that he was somehow involved in the whole thing - and rather accidently also finds the one piece of evidence that proves George innocent. Armed with that, Stroud tries to track down the real killer - while on the run from pretty much everyone and the air in the building getting thin, figuratively speaking ...

Elsa Lanchester as an eccentric artist who believes in Stroud's innocence provides some comic relief.

 

Now this is a next to perfect murder mystery: It doesn't put much emphasis on the actual "whodunnit"-aspect of the story (actually we know that early on) but everything on telling a tense and suspenseful story that's kept alive more by its perfectly mechanized twists and turns rather than surprises pulled out of the hat, and that revolves around a fallible but relateable hero rather than some supersleuth. And a very stylish directorial effort that nevertheless gives the story enough room to breathe as well as a top notch cast make this one great movie indeed!

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
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starring
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out now on DVD