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1,186 Ratings

Bigger Than Life

Directed by Nicholas Ray
United States, 1956


When a suburban teacher and father (James Mason) is prescribed cortisone for a painful, possibly fatal affliction, he grows dangerously addicted to the experimental drug. This Eisenhower-era throat-grabber, shot in expressive CinemaScope, is an excoriating take on the nuclear family.

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Bigger Than Life Directed by Nicholas Ray
Mason’s gift for cold-eyed madness is heightened by Ray’s exuberantly lurid approach. He films Ed’s jaundiced world view with cocked angles and shock cuts and invokes the clash of slovenly good cheer and tyrannical order with a palette that sets decorous neutral tones against the acid colors of corrosive passion and the eerie fluorescence of the little purple bottle at the heart of it all.
December 22, 2017
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Bigger Than Life is a film filled with such contradictions, such paradoxes and confusions of emotion and reason; indeed, these are part of what makes it big and ugly and beautiful as life, even in its outsized proportions. And these proportions are measured first and foremost by James Mason, whose perfectly vivid realization of Ed Avery gives the film its minuteness and scope.
June 19, 2013
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No indictment of experimental medicine, Bigger than Life is instead a profoundly disturbing reminder of our flawed flesh and blood and our precarious mind and spirit, as well as a withering review of patriarchy. If Bigger than Life’s fifties America critique had been made at any later date, it would undoubtedly come across as a histrionic indictment of an earlier era; the film’s power comes from the fact that it’s a dispatch from its time.
June 18, 2012
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