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Born Lucky Studios

a boutique video production and post-production studio

Bigger than Life –

James Mason seems to have unfairly fallen into the category of forgotten legends. The problem with that is not that we need to think of him in the same breath as James Dean or Humphry Bogart, but his omission from the general consciousness disappointing. So, outside of a fantastic parody of him by John Hamm on SNL, where should we remember him? Most defiantly as the debonair villain in North by Northwest. Surely, as the pedophile protagonist of Lolita. As the Irish Nationalist Leader in Odd Man Out, is not bad either.

Though, I think that those who have seen and will see him in Bigger than Life, might remember him most fondly here, in a remarkable performance, in movie seemingly years before its time. It is a film whose final act outdoes all that precedes it, but does not misrepresent where the film was going, and Mason’s de-evolution is the central driving force to that final act.

The film stars Mason as a school teacher who, suffering from a life threatening disease, agrees to go on a radical new medication. The medication alters his personality, and he becomes a threat to himself and his family. (You’re question: Why doesn’t he stop taking the medication if he’s becoming another eprson? Answer: He dies and leaves his wife and child alone, in 1950’s America, if he does.)

Quickly, our poor school teacher starts to lose his grasp on the world. His friends and family take the brunt of this transformation and the film marches towards it fantastic conclusion.

But without Mason’s measured lunacy, and without Nicolas Ray’s steady, remarkable-when-it-has-to-be direction, this film would have been destined for the scrap heap of B-Movie filler.

As it is, Bigger than Life is crazy good.

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