The Big Clock

I went back an screened 'The Big Clock' this afternoon to see the differences between it and 'No Way Out'. They are two different films and one of the big differences is the protagonist. Kevin Costners character is a single playboy out who falls for Sean Young. They become enthusiastic lovers while she is having a relationship with Gene Hackman (the antagonist). Hackman kills her and frames Costner. In the 1948 version Ray Milland is married and works himself to the bone. He is supposed to treat his wife to a honeymoon five years after their marriage. Milland can't get the time off so he quits. In his weaker moment, he ends up missing the plane with his wife and ends up spending the evening with Maureen O'Sullivan, the wife of his boss. The tyranical boss, played perfectly by Charles Laughton confronts her. She is cruel to him and degrades him by questioning his manly abilities and he turns to a rage and kills her (Laughton in the same role as Hackman). Milland's character is framed for the murder and he has to try to prove his innocence. Unlike pure Noir, both films absolve the protagonist of moral ambiguity. In 'The Big Clock' Milland plays a faithful husband who stays true to his wife despite a night out on the town. In 'No Way Out' Costner is a single playboy who falls in love with the victim. Both films ensure that the protagonist is sympathetic despite the fact that the theme of adultry (or something like it) is the root cause of the drama.

On another note, Charles Laughton whose performance in 'The Big Clock' is terrific, directed one film in his life. He wrote and directed 'The Night of the Hunter' starring Robert Mitchum. It is a real shame that this was the only foray into directing for Laughton who obviously had considerable talent. It's a thriller in the tradition of German Expressionism. Apparently a box office failure, 'The Night of the Hunter' is a visual tour de force. If you get a chance, check it out and, if I lent you my DVD, let me know because I'd love to see it again!

1 comment:

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