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A man is found murdered, with witnesses convinced about the woman they saw leaving his apartment. However, it becomes apparent that the woman has a twin, and finding out which one is the killer seems impossible.
Olivia de Havilland,
When powerful publishing tycoon Earl Janouth commits an act of murder at the height of passion, he cleverly begins to cover his tracks and frame an innocent man, whose identity he doesn't know, but who just happen to have contact with the murder victim. That man is a close associate on his magazine whom he enlists to trap this "killer" George Stroud. It's up to George to continue to "help" Janouth, to elude the police and to find proof of his innocence and Janouth's guilt. Written by
"The Big Clock" takes some chances with unusual characters, and with complicated and sometimes outlandish plot developments, but it holds together well to produce a generally satisfying, and always interesting, suspense film. A fine cast makes us both believe in and identify with the characters, and good direction by John Farrow keeps the film moving, and blends together what otherwise could have been a lot of incongruous plot devices.
Ray Milland is a vital part of the film's success in his role as George Stroud, the editor of a crime magazine who has an amazing talent for tracking down elusive criminals. Already caught in a conflict between his neglected wife and his domineering employer, Stroud finds himself asked to direct a search for an unknown murderer in a case where, because of a chain of circumstantial evidence, all the clues point back to himself. What the audience knows, but Stroud does not, is that the real killer is his boss, played with panache by Charles Laughton, who is obsessed with time and whose proudest creation is a gigantic clock that dominates the publishing house that he runs. The title refers literally to this clock, and perhaps metaphorically refers to the urgency faced by Milland's character as he fights against time trying to extricate himself from his troubles. Milland nicely underplays all of this, and communicates his dilemmas with a lot of credibility.
The supporting cast is an important part of the film, as they must bring life and credibility to a series of oddball plot elements, and they are all quite good. Especially noteworthy is Elsa Lanchester's performance as an eccentric artist whose paintings become one of the clues to the crime. Lanchester is simply wonderful in her scenes, and the movie would be worth watching over again for those alone.
"The Big Clock" is a good example of a "film noir", and will be most enjoyed by those who are fans of the way films of the genre were made in their heyday. But it would also be a good choice for anyone who likes crime/mystery stories and who is willing to look at the way such films were made in an earlier era. After watching "The Big Clock", you might want to see more of them.
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