Wrong-man movies in honor of Hitchcock (2 of 4): The Big Clock
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Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Hitchcock has us thinking of “innocent man wrongly accused” movies.
The Big Clock (1948)
The Big Clock is one of the cleverest noir films of the ’40s. It stars Ray Milland as a magazine editor who’s assigned by his coldly demanding publisher Charles Laughton to track down the man Laughton saw leaving his mistress’ apartment shortly before he himself went inside and murdered her. Milland doesn’t know that Laughton is actually the murderer, and Laughton doesn’t know that Milland is the man he means to find (to frame for the crime). So Milland builds a case against himself, while trying to conceal the key evidence that keeps popping up at inconvenient times.
The Big Clock was remade in 1987—and very well—as No Way Out, which sets the story in the military and changes some key details. But No Way Out lacks The Big Clock’s sense of style. With the title object always looming atop Laughton’s state-of-the-art office building, The Big Clock creates a sense of paranoia, reinforcing the idea that Milland is stuck in a no-win situation, working for a rich lunatic who controls his life to such a degree that he can coerce Milland into implicating himself in a crime he didn’t commit. Throughout the movie, director John Farrow layers in deep shadows while running Milland through the maze that is his place of work, always keeping the hero just barely one step ahead of his own doom, while also making it clear that for Milland, this is really just another day at the office.
Availability: The Big Clock is available on DVD as part of the budget-priced “Universal Noir Collection.”