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Year: 1956
UK: BFI (Access)
Cast: James Mason, Barbara Rush, Christopher Olsen, Walter Matthau, Robert Simon, Roland Winters, Rusty Lane, Rachel Stephens, Kipp Hamilton, Gus Schilling
Director: Nicholas Ray
Country: USA
UK: 95 mins
UK Certificate: 12A contains mild violence and theme of mental degeneration
UK Release Date: 28 November 2003 (Limited Re-release - London)


BIGGER THAN LIFE is one of the greatest American films of the 50s, and a highpoint in the careers both of lead actor James Mason, who also served as producer, and of director Nicholas Ray.

Mason gives a towering performance as Ed Avery, a happily married middle-class teacher who is suddenly put on a strict regime of the 'miracle drug' Cortisone when it's discovered that his arteries are inflamed. Physically, he soon recovers, but abuse of his medication produces nightmarish side-effects that bring to the fore all of Ed's long repressed frustrations with his life, and the scene is set for tragedy

Mason's support is exceptional: Barbara Rush as Ed's devoted wife, Christopher Olsen as his cruelly punished son and Walter Matthau as his faithful colleague.

One of the cinema's most persuasive portraits of psychological turmoil, the film also succeeds magnificently as searing melodrama and subversive social critique, with Ray, his scriptwriters (who included Clifford Odets and Gavin Lambert) and cinematographer Joe MacDonald achieving a perfect balance between emotional realism and expressionist allegory. Which other Hollywood film of the era ever had the audacity to suggest that God might possibly be wrong?

BIGGER THAN LIFE is presented in a newly restored 35mm CinemaScope print, it will subsequently screen at cinemas across the UK.

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