Tonight's Saturday Night Cinema is the thrilling psychological film noir, The Big Clock. Taut, intense suspense told in "superb visual style set against the backdrop of upscale 1940s New York and offering an early (but accurate) depiction of the modern media industry." Charles Laughton, whom I adore, is brilliant (as always). Sit back and enjoy.
The New York Times Review: The Big Clock (1948)
THE SCREEN; ' The Big Clock,' 17-Jewel Film, With Ray Milland, Laughton, Is a Dandy Clue-ChaserBy BOSLEY CROWTHERPublished: April 22, 1948
When you hear the musical chime at the end of this ticking review of the Paramount's "The Big Clock," which opened at that theatre yesterday, it will be exactly the time for all devotees of detective films to make a mental memorandum to see it without possible fail. Note well, we make the stipulation that you should be a devotee of detective films and that you should have in your mind the mechanisms of precision peculiar to the cult. For this is a dandy clue-chaser of the modern chromium-plated type, but it is also an entertainment which requires close attention from the start.
Actually, in the manner of the best detective fiction these days, it isn't a stiff and stark whodunit activated around some stalking cop. Nary a wise-guy policeman clutters up the death-room or the clues. As a matter of fact, the policemen are not called in until the end. And the fellow who does the murder is known by the audience all along.
He's a dynamic publishing magnate, ruler of a realm of magazines and a double-dyed rogue who runs his business on the split-tick of a huge electric clock. In a mad, jealous moment, he kills his sweetie, a not very temperate young thing, and then calls upon the cagey editor of his crime magazine to find the man. Two circumstances make this ticklish. The clues have been rigged to make it look as though the murderer were another fellow. And the other fellow is—the editor.
Out of this cozy situation of a guy trying to square himself, even though he is thoroughly innocent and knows perfectly who the murderer is, Scriptwriter Jonathan Latimer and Director John Farrow have fetched a film which is fast-moving, humorous, atmospheric and cumulative of suspense. No doubt there are holes in the fabric—even a rip or two, perhaps—and the really precision-minded are likely to spot them the first time around. But the plot moves so rapidly over them and provides such absorbing by-play that this not-too-gullible observer can't precisely put his finger upon one. (That's why we urge your close attention—just to see if there is anything to catch.)
As the self-protection clue-collector, Ray Milland does a beautiful job of being a well-tailored smoothie and a desperate hunted man at the same time. Charles Laughton is characteristically odious as the sadistic publisher and George Macready is sleek as his henchman, while Maureen O'Sullivan is sweet as Ray's nice wife. Exceptional, however, are several people who play small but electric character roles: Elsa Lanchester as a crack-pot painter and Douglas Spencer as a barman, best of all. Miss Lanchester is truly delicious with her mad pace and her wild, eccentric laugh. A leg on somebody's "Oscar" is won by her with this role.
Indeed, some minor pedestal might be provided, too, for "The Big Clock," a seventeen-jewel entertainment guaranteed to give a good—if not perfect—time.
On the stage at the Paramount are Duke Ellington and his orchestra, with Ella Fitzgerald, the Four Step Brothers and George Kirby.
THE BIG CLOCK, screen play by Jonathan Latimer, based on the novel by Kenneth Fearing; directed by John Farrow; produced by Richard Maibaum for Paramount Pictures. At the Paramount.
George Stroud . . . . . Ray Milland
Earl Janoth . . . . . Charles Laughton
Georgette Stroud . . . . . Maureen O'Sullivan
Steve Hagen . . . . . George Macready
Pauline York . . . . . Rita Johnson
Louise Patterson . . . . . Elsa Lanchester
Don Klausmeyer . . . . . Harold Vermilyea
Roy Cordette . . . . . Dan Tobin
Bill Womack . . . . . Henry Morgan
Nat Sperling . . . . . Richard Webb
Tony Watson . . . . . Ted Van Brunt
Lily Gold . . . . . Elaine Riley
Edwin Orlin . . . . . Luis Van Rooten
McKinley . . . . . Lloyd Corrigan
Bert Finch . . . . . Douglas Spencer