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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
Remade in 1987 as "No Way Out," the 1948 film "The Big Clock" is a wonderful suspense film starring Charles Laughton, Ray Milland, George MacCready, and Maureen O'Sullivan, directed by O'Sullivan's husband, John Farrow.
Earl Janoth (Laughton), the owner of a publishing empire, is a quiet, enigmatic tyrant who loves clocks and has them all over his buildings throughout the country, including a big one in the lobby of his New York building. The clocks everywhere run together on naval observatory time.
Janoth's right-hand man, Steve Hagen (MacCready) does his dirty work for him. When Janoth kills his mistress (Rita Johnson), Hagen cleans up the mess. Janoth is sure he saw someone in the hall when he arrived at his girlfriend's apartment, and feeling that the man can identify him, wants him found and eliminated. He orders his executives to get the man, telling them the person they want is involved in a war contract scheme. One man, George Stroud (Ray Milland), who is heading up the investigation, isn't fooled. He knows that he is the man Janoth is looking for -- and why.
"The Big Clock" is a great cat and mouse story, with Stroud ducking people who saw him in various places with the mistress on the night she was killed. He also attempts to leave the building to find a cab driver when someone who can identify him is standing at the exit with security people.
Milland does an excellent job of being both cool and panicky, and Laughton's underplaying makes the character of Janoth all the more deadly. Maureen O'Sullivan is delightful as the long-suffering Mrs. Stroud, who's never had a honeymoon because of her husband's work. Elsa Lanchester is hilarious as an artist whose painting figures into the story.
My only complaint is that the ending is a tiny bit abrupt, though very amusing.
A really wonderful film for suspense-lovers, Hitchcock-like, and highly entertaining.
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