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John Farrow
Ray Milland, Maureen O'Sullivan, Charles Laughton
Writing Credits:
Jonathan Latimer

After he murders his mistress, a magazine tycoon tries to frame an unknown, innocent man of the murder instead, while the innocent man tries to solve the murder himself.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/14/2019

• Audio Commentary with Film Scholar Adrian Martin
• “Turning Back the Clock” Featurette
• “A Difficult Actor” Featurette
• Lux Radio Theatre Broadcast
• Trailer
• Image Gallery


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The Grand Duel [Blu-Ray] (1948)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 8, 2019)

One of the approximately 829 film noir tales with “big” in the title, 1948’s The Big Clock introduces us to George Stroud (Ray Milland), the harried editor of a true crime magazine. George plans to leave for a long-delayed honeymoon with his wife Georgette (Maureen O’Sullivan), only to suffer from its potential cancellation when his boss Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton) demands that he stay on the job.

Fed up with the situation, George resigns, and after Georgette leaves town without him, he goes on a drinking binge that allows him to connect with Earl’s mistress Pauline York (Rita Johnson). An enraged Janoth murders Pauline and convinces George to find the “real killer”, a task that starts to point toward Stroud himself.

In general, I feel loath to classify various eras as any kind of cinematic “Golden Ages”, but I find it tough to deny that the 1940s acted as probably the best era for the kind of thriller we get with Clock. When a movie as fun as Clock essentially becomes lost to the ages, we know that the period came with tons of good efforts.

Maybe it seems unfair to call Clock a film “lost to the ages”, but I doubt any other than devoted noir buffs know of it. While I would never consider myself to be an expert, I do boast a better knowledge of movie history than the vast majority of the public, and Clock didn’t show up on my radar until this Blu-ray release materialized.

I’m glad I gave Clock a look, as it provides a pretty terrific little enterprise. We basically get a story in which a man investigates a crime that gradually points in his direction, and the movie plays out this thread in a lively, compelling manner.

In addition to its clever premise, Clock develops its narrative in a brisk, involving way. The film progresses at a good rate and never sags in an appreciable way, all as it digs into its tangled web with gusto.

A fine cast helps the effort as well. Milland fills out the “unfairly accused innocent man” in a believable manner, and Laughton offers a splendid turn as the oily magazine tycoon.

Elsa Lanchester delights in a short but amusing turn as an eccentric artist, and we even see Harry Morgan against type as Janoth’s henchman. It’s a ball of fun to view kindly Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H as a brooding, silent thug.

All this gets crammed into an efficient 96-minute package that ensures a relentless pace. After more than 70 years, Clock holds up very well and provides a wholly entertaining thriller.

Footnote: after I watched Clock, I discovered that it got remade in 1987 under the title No Way Out. I saw that one back in the day but don’t remember much about it. I doubt it works as well as Clock.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

The Big Clock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a poor image, the transfer came with issues.

Sharpness mainly came across well, with images that largely appeared accurate and well-defined. A few slightly ill-defined elements materialized, but most of the movie showed nice accuracy.

Clock lacked moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge haloes also remained absent. The presence of grain implied that the image didn’t suffer from notable digital noise reduction.

Blacks looked taut and dense, while low-light shots demonstrated appropriate smoothness and clarity. Contrast also appeared well-developed, as the black and white photography showed the expected silvery sheen.

Clock lost nearly all its points from the condition of the print. Throughout the film, we got quite a few lines, specks and nicks.

The rest of the image worked fine, but the presence of so many source defects dropped my rating to a “C-”. A cleaned-up Clock would’ve earned high marks, but this one simply came with too many issues.

I thought the movie’s PCM monaural soundtrack seemed dated but adequate. In terms of dialogue, the lines remained intelligible and offered reasonable clarity.

Neither music nor effects boasted much range or dimensionality, but both appeared clean and accurate enough, without distortion or problems. The track came with some light background noise. This mix felt acceptable for its vintage.

A few extras appear here, and these start with an audio commentary from film scholar Adrian Martin. He presents a running, screen-specific look at the source novel and its adaptation, story/character areas, director John Farrow's style and production choices, cast and crew, music, and related areas.

Martin covers the film in a largely satisfying manner, especially in regard to interpretation and changes from the novel. He mixes that side of the discussion with enough nuts and bolts to make this a winning piece.

From 1948, a Lux Radio Theatre version of Clock runs 59 minutes, 28 seconds. It brings back Ray Milland and Maureen O’Sullivan in their movie roles, and it uses future TV star William Conrad in the Charles Laughton part.

The radio Clock seems entertaining enough, though the acting varies. Milland emotes too much, but Conrad fills in well for Laughton. This becomes a fun addition to the disc.

Two featurettes follow, and Turning Back the Clock fills 23 minutes, one second and provides analysis from film critic Adrian Wootton. He covers the book’s move to the screen, story and characters, the movie’s tone and related elements. Though he repeats some of Martin’s material, this still becomes a fairly good piece of introspection.

A Difficult Actor goes for 17 minutes, 31 seconds and features actor/writer/director Simon Callow. He discusses actor Charles Laughton, with an emphasis on his work in Clock. Callow delivers a mix of useful notes.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get an Image Gallery. It presents two areas: “Posters and Press” (21 frames) and “Production Stills” (113). Both offer useful elements.

A thoroughly entertaining film noir, The Big Clock fires on all cylinder. With a clever story, fun twists and a great cast, this one becomes a total pleasure. The Blu-ray comes with mediocre picture and audio as well as a nice collection of bonus materials. While the presentation of the film comes with some issues, I still recommend Clock just because the movie itself offers such fine entertainment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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