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The Big Clock (1948) August 30th, 2020

On it’s face The Big Clock is a whodunnit mixed with a man on the run noir thriller. A forerunner of movies like Detour or Big Trouble it’s premise is equal parts outlandish and terrifyingly realistic, prompting the viewer to ask “What would I do if this happened to me?” Hopefully those context clues paint a clear enough picture of the plot to let you know if you’d be interested because I’d spoil the surprises if I got more specific.

What I can say without spoiling is the cast is a Quarantined Critic dream team. Ok maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but if you’ve read this blog in it’s entirety then you’ll know I have a soft spot for Ray Milland, Elsa Lanchester, and Charles Laughton which might make The Big Clock my cinematic fontanel. Add in John Farrow’s penchant for long takes, massive set pieces, and innovative camera techniques and you’ve got a movie that’ll leave a lasting imprint in your head.

Most of The Big Clock takes place in the posh offices of a massive magazine publishing company. At least that’s what you’re supposed to believe they are. I’d bet they’re actually shot in different living rooms around 1940’s Los Angeles. “How can you tell? What gives them away?” you might ask. The fireplaces. Each office has a prominent fireplaces camouflaged and overflowing with potted plants. No major metropolitan office space has a wood fireplace OR a weird ground-level wall-inlaid potted plant centerpiece away from all sources of natural light. Where would you put the chimney? Where would the smoke go?

Make no mistake, The Big Clock is a fun thriller with great acting and engaging cinematography but it’s also full of overlooked production gaffs like the fireplaces and the multitude of unobscured marks on the floor. I really enjoy finding these kind of things films made before home video much less HD. These filmmakers probably operated under the assumption that people would only see their film once in the theater. They had no reason to assume anyone would ever be able to rewind or pause and catch the clues to the men behind the curtain. Heck, even after home video movies like Jurassic Park were riddled with weird production errors like the electric fence that ends just out of frame, the video call that’s actually just a QuickTime video, or it’s own out of place potted plant!

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