The Big Clock (1948)

For someone who loves books with as much passion as she does old cinema, it’s hardly surprising, perhaps, that I get especially excited when I discover a screen adaptation of a book I like—or vice-versa.

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon Kenneth Fearing’s novel The Big Clock. I had never heard of it before, and the first couple of chapters of the book didn’t endear me to it: too dry, too full of journalistic jargon, too business-y. But I persevered, and suddenly, the story took a turn that caught me by surprise. And then it became such a gripping, unputdownable book that I ended up racing through it, eager to see where it would go.

… which was why, when I found it had been also made into a film, I approached the cinematic The Big Clock with some trepidation: would they have been able to do justice to it?

As it turned out, yes. More than justice.

The Big Clock centres round a mammoth publication company, named Janoth Publications, after its owner, Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton). Janoth Publications is housed in a multistory building, each floor being devoted to one publication churned out by the behemoth: Styleways, Sportways, Newsways, and so on—and, the publication which becomes the focus of this story, Crimeways. As its name suggests, Crimeways is devoted to crime reporting, and is headed by George Stroud (Ray Milland).

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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The other day, someone commented on my long-ago list of ten favourite Robert Mitchum roles. It reminded me that I hadn’t watched a Mitchum film in a long, long time (unpardonable, considering he’s one of my favourite actors). And, since Mitchum’s role as the chilling Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter is one of the landmark roles of his career—well, it did seem appropriate to review the film.

Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter Continue reading

The Paradine Case (1947)

This is one of the few Hitchcock films I didn’t see in my younger years. And, considering that Hitchcock is one of my favourite directors, and Gregory Peck one of my favourite actors, that is odd indeed. Perhaps I should put it down to the fact that The Paradine Case is not one of Hitch’s best-known works; in fact, he more or less washed his hands off it. And Peck, too, seems to have not really liked it.

Gregory Peck in The Paradine Case

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Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

“The trial of of Leonard Vole for the murder of Emily French aroused widespread interest. In the first place the prisoner was young and good-looking, then he was accused of a particularly dastardly crime, and there was the further interest of Romaine Heilger, the principal witness for the prosecution…” — Agatha Christie, The Witness for the Prosecution

Tyrone Power’s last full-length appearance on screen (he died while filming Solomon and Sheba a year later), Witness for the Prosecution is also one of his most famous films. Surprisingly, not mainly because of Power—his role in it, though pivotal, is actually quite small—but because of the overall brilliance of the film: the excellent acting, Billy Wilder’s direction, and a very good adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s best-known short stories.

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Ten of my favourite Mitchum quotes

David Lean, talking about Mitchum, once said, “Mitchum can, simply by being there, make almost any other actor look like a hole in the screen.”

Robert Mitchum

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