Bigger Than Life (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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The picture is a landmark in the evolution of CinemaScope. Ray was among the first directors to explore the possibilities the wide screen held for psychological and emotional expressiveness (as opposed to mere pictorialism and spectacle), and he uses it brilliantly even though most of the film transpires within a middle-class home. The house is cunningly designed and visualized to seem commonplace, and probably '50s audiences in America registered it that way--just another glance at their everyday reality--while foreign audiences saw lucid and powerful abstraction. Ray invests every sector with dynamic potentiality and meaning, including the acre of thicket and scrub out back that realistically shouldn't be there a stone's throw from the Averys' picture-perfect suburban street. Add the director's bold use of color to underscore the disquiet and intensify the emotional environment, and we have an exemplary modern film. This comes through all the more strongly on the DVD and especially in Blu-ray; the home screen enhances both the abstraction and the specificity of Ray's vision. In the meticulous digital restoration of the original camera negative, the colors are more crisply and definitively there than in any shopworn repertory print or standard TV broadcast. --Richard T. Jameson
Audio commentary featuring critic Geoff Andrew
Profile of Nicholas Ray (1977), a half-hour television interview
New video appreciation of Bigger Than Life
New video interview with Susan Ray
An essay by film writer B. Kite
Top Customer Reviews
Ray, like Fuller, unfortunately was, more or less, wholly ignored in the US during his life but was immensely popular with the Cahiers kids and I'm glad to see that in the past decade or so his films, besides the popular Rebel Without a Cause, are getting some serious reevaluations.
Here's the details, for those interested, in regards to the Criterion release:
* New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
* Audio commentary featuring critic Geoff Andrew (The Films of Nicholas Ray)
* Profile of Nicholas Ray (1977), a half-hour television interview with the director
* New video appreciation of Bigger Than Life with author Jonathan Lethem (Chronic City)
* New video interview with Susan Ray, widow of the director and editor of I Was Interrupted: Nicholas Ray on Making Movies
* Theatrical trailer
* PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and video maker B. Kite
Here is to hoping that they get their hands on Johnny Guitar.
Mild-mannered schoolteacher Ed Avery (James Mason) works hard to provide for his wife Lou (Barbara Rush) and young son Richie (Christopher Olsen), secretly working after-hours as a taxi switchboard operator. When Ed is struck down by a debilitating and potentially fatal illness, doctors prescribe wonder drug Cortisone, and it seems to do the trick. Ed feels more confident than he has in years, and loves to spoil the family with expensive trips to the department store. But Ed's dependence takes a darker turn when he begins taking the pills in larger quantities. Lou and Richie can only stand by helplessly as Ed angrily lashes out, hurling abuse and insults at his wife and son. The mood swings only get worse as the weeks wear on, to the moment when Ed finally cracks completely...
I won't try to spoil any major plot points. BIGGER THAN LIFE will surprise and shock you with it's hard-hitting subject matter, and the frank way it's depicted was I'm sure the main reason why the movie flopped in 1956. It's well and truly the flipside of "Father Knows Best". Today the movie still rings true because so many families are dealing with similar issues on a daily basis. James Mason and Barbara Rush are completely mesmerising to watch here. Child actors from the 1950's are normally very mannered and "trained" on screen, but young Christopher Olsen is heartbreaking as the tortured Richie; his performance absolutely rings true. Walter Matthau, Kipp Hamilton and Roland Winters are also very fine.
Bigger than Life tells the tale of Ed Avery, a good-natured school teacher who in the hard 50's is juggling an additional job at a Taxi company to provide for his family. As the pressure of everyday life and these two jobs mount up, he notices certain bouts of pain and even a few blackouts. Dismissing these episodes, it later becomes obvious to him and his family that he is unable to keep up with daily life in such a way. A specialist tells him that he has a very rare inflammation of the arteries; a condition that would grant him only a short few months to live. The only way of combating this disease is a new experimental steroid hormone called Cortisone. This abuse of this drug which Ed must take for the rest of his livelihood in has extremely adverse effects such as Psychosis, a condition with symptoms such as hallucinations and impaired judgment.
Ray's treatment of Ed's abuse of Cortisone is simply jaw-dropping. The audience continually waits and waits for a violent outburst, an outburst that literally tears the family apart-but it doesn't happen. Ray could have easily taken this condition and created a violent and physically abusive monster, but he keeps Ray controlled. On the surface, besides his little conspiracy and new-found ideologies Ed does not seem to be effected in a major way by the drug.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really impresive rendition of this movie.
Never seen it before, but I'm very pleased.
I wished that I had seen this movie when I became steroid dépendent over 30 years ago. It would have explained a lot of what my doctors failed to explain to me in order to... Read morePublished 9 months ago by JR
Outside of a rather remarkable (and convincing) performance from James Mason, there was a lot about ‘Bigger than Life’ I felt needed some better direction, or a better writer. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Andrew Ellington
I have this film in HD, but I wanted it on regular DVD so I could play it on my computer. This is a marvelous film made during the "wonder drug" era of the mid-1950's. Read morePublished on August 13, 2013 by Markie
This unusual drama, directed by Nicholas Ray ('Rebel Without A Cause, Johnny Guitar, etc), does what the film adaptation of 'Revolutionary Road' did some 60 years later: it uses... Read morePublished on June 15, 2013 by Christopher Jones
As a mature person, I appreciate many of the older movies, and this movie has a lot to appreciate. James Mason, Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau were simply great in executing... Read morePublished on March 26, 2013 by Dennis A. Denton
What a ride,The movie starts as quaint as humanly possible. By the end you've got yourself a new grip on fifties paranoia. Plus James Mason goes bonkers. Read more
THIS SHOULD ABSOSULELY BE THE BEST PICTURE AT THAT TIME. WHY CONTROVERSIAL? BIGGER THAN LIFE IS TRULY A SUCCESS IN FILM MAKING, THE SCENES ABOUT THE MAN BECAME PARANOID AND INSANE... Read morePublished on February 3, 2013 by HAN XIAO