Starring: Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara
Director: John Farrow
Running Time: 95 mins
The Big Clock is an American film about a high-ranking magazine executive who finds himself falsely accused of a murder by his boss, so sets about solving the case on his own.
As far as classic Hollywood thrillers go, The Big Clock is a fun watch, albeit far from the most nail-biting one. A film that entertainingly combines mistaken identity with paranoia, the story’s high-stakes intricacy provides a lot to enjoy, but misses out on fostering a more striking, tense atmosphere.
So, The Big Clock isn’t on the level of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Fritz Lang or any of the other great classic thriller auteurs’ best works. That being said, it has more than enough energy, intrigue and twists to entertain throughout, and provides a lighter touch than many other thrillers of the age.
Skirting a line between genuine tension and all-out farce, this film’s likable blend of a case of mistaken identity and a story of real paranoia and suspicion is what makes it most fun to watch. Ray Milland’s lead performance plays into that combination well, while Charles Laughton’s almost comically evil turn only heightens some of the film’s more outlandish sensibilities.
As a result, this is a thriller that you can sink your teeth into – what with the constant twisting and turning as a man attempts to both escape accusation for murder and turn the tables on his accuser – but it’s also just light enough to let you sit back and enjoy.
It’s fast-paced, well-acted and full of energy, which is more than enough to satisfy viewers over the course of its short 95 minute runtime. It may not be a masterpiece, but The Big Clock is good fun nonetheless.
Where the film misses out, however, is in its failure to establish a more powerful atmosphere of tension throughout. That tension lies within the twists and turns of suspicion that tell the story, but The Big Clock needs to do more to really bring that suspense and paranoia home on a more striking level.
As a result, the film’s more light-hearted sensibilities are what stand out in the end, not quite living up to the potential of an equally gripping tale of tension and suspicion at the same time.
Overall, however, there’s no denying that The Big Clock is a good, fun watch. It’s a light-hearted classic thriller that you can sit back and enjoy, yet has just enough intrigue and narrative intricacy to seek your teeth into should you want to. With strong performances, good energy and fun-loving sensibilities, it’s an enjoyable and regularly captivating film, and that’s why I’m giving The Big Clock a 7.3.