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The most complete, newly restored version of Nicholas Ray's experimental masterpiece embodies the director's practice of filmmaking as a "communal way of life." Ray plays himself in the ... See full summary »
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Schoolteacher and family man Ed Avery, who's been suffering bouts of severe pain and even blackouts, is hospitalized with what's diagnosed as a rare inflammation of the arteries. Told by doctors that he probably has only months to live, Ed agrees to an experimental treatment: doses of the hormone cortisone. Ed makes a remarkable recovery, and returns home to his wife, Lou, and their son, Richie. He must keep taking cortisone tablets regularly to prevent a recurrence of his illness. But the "miracle" cure turns into its own nightmare as Ed starts to abuse the tablets, causing him to experience increasingly wild mood swings. Written by
Eugene Kim <email@example.com>
37 minutes into the movie, Ed is at the bathroom sink and has just replaced the pill bottle in the medicine cabinet. As he closes the cabinet door, the director and the camera are reflected in the mirror. See more »
Childhood is a congenital disease - and the purpose of education is to cure it. We're breeding a race of moral midgets.
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James Mason becomes "Bigger than Life" in this 1956 Nicholas Ray film that also stars Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau. Mason plays Ed Avery, a schoolteacher who also is a part-time cab dispatcher. He is suffering from severe spasms that are getting worse. He learns that he has a terminal illness that perhaps can be cured with a steroid, cortisone. He is helped, but he also begins to suffer from mood swings and depression and, as he takes more and more, veers completely out of control. Barbara Rush plays his suffering wife, and Walter Matthau is a family friend and coworker.
I actually had a family member who went into profound depressions because of continuing to take black market cortisone, so this film resonated with me. Mason, who produced the film, is terrifying. Barbara Rush is very good, though her character puts up with an awful lot before she makes a move. Matthau is good in a supporting role, but roles showcasing his true strengths as an actor were a few years away.
This is much more than a cautionary tale about steroids, which need to be taken and tapered off very carefully. In his cortisone-induced mindset, Ed Avery spouts off on the problems in society, very unusual in the repressed '50s. His ideas are a tad over the top, but there's a good kernel in them. Ray always did well with a rebellious mindset.
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