THE BIG CLOCK is a very stylish murder mystery starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Rita Johnson.
Milland plays George Stroud, the hardworking editor of Crimeways Magazine. George is at the beck and call of his tyrannical publisher, Earl Janoth (Laughton), which makes George's long-suffering wife (O'Sullivan) none too happy. She's been waiting five years to take their honeymoon trip!
One fateful night George misses meeting his wife for a train trip and drowns his sorrows alongside Janoth's mistress Pauline (Johnson). The next day Pauline turns up dead, and the clues uncovered by the Crimeways staff increasingly point to George as Pauline's murderer. George finds himself in a race against time to clear his name and find the real killer.
THE BIG CLOCK is a bit slow out of the starting gate, but on the whole is an engrossing mystery. I found the plot thread regarding George disappointing his wife a bit tiresome and also found Laughton's affectations a bit much, such as constantly touching his mustache. However, the film gets more interesting as it goes along and has many positives in its favor, starting with the always-enjoyable Ray Milland as a man with a major crisis on his hands. On the whole it's a very worthwhile film, which I'll be watching again at some point in order to more fully absorb the many twists and turns of the plot.
The movie's outstanding set design is a worthy reason to see the film in and of itself. I loved the glimpses of various magazines -- Artways, Airways, Sportways -- as Milland's elevator makes stops on the way to the Crimeways floor. The names of the magazines on posts in the magazine's dock area are also very striking, as are the individual offices. And of course, there's the title clock, which has to be seen to be believed.
Two married couples worked on the film. Charles Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester, has a marvelous supporting role as a ditzy artist with a houseful of children. Her role lightens the tension at just the right moments, and she has the funniest line in the film. Actress Maureen O'Sullivan, who has a small but effective role as George's wife, was married to the film's director, John Farrow. They had seven children, including Mia Farrow.
The excellent supporting cast includes Harry Morgan (a nonspeaking role as Laughton's silently menacing bodyguard), Dan Tobin, and George Macready.
Rita Johnson, who plays the murder victim, had a solid career including appearances in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941) and Milland's THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942). She appeared in many MGM films of the '30s, including MY DEAR MISS ALDRICH (1937), which starred O'Sullivan, and RICH MAN, POOR GIRL (1938). She only acted sporadically after suffering a major concussion and having brain surgery in 1948.
THE BIG CLOCK was shot in black and white and runs 95 minutes. It inspired the 1987 Kevin Costner film NO WAY OUT, in which the mystery was transferred to the Pentagon.
THE BIG CLOCK is available on DVD and video. The only extra on the DVD is a trailer; the trailer's presentation is a bit unique in that it features Ray Milland previewing his role on a "radio show."
The movie has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.