Lost in the Movies: Bigger Than Life as Twin Peaks Cinema #17 - Ray's Haunted Fifties (podcast)

Bigger Than Life as Twin Peaks Cinema #17 - Ray's Haunted Fifties (podcast)

The conclusion to my three-month "Ray's Haunted Fifties" season, Bigger Than Life may have encouraged more Twin Peaks comparisons than any other Nicholas Ray film (except perhaps last month's entry, Rebel Without a Cause - whose direct influences are more on the surfaces and whose indirect connections are more subtle). Like the title that kicked off this season, On Dangerous Ground, Bigger Than Life centers an angry, violent father, but in this case the father's wrath is directed at his family rather than on its behalf; or rather, he convinces himself that his patriarchal rage is meant for the benefit of his wife and son...even it costs them their lives. As a mild-mannered schoolteacher turned by addiction to Cortisone into a psychopathic abuser, James Mason's Ed Avery runs a similar gamut to Leland Palmer in Fire Walk With Me (or, for that matter, to Walter White in Breaking Bad, which also comes up in this discussion). Tackling one of the most common fifties motifs, familial domesticity in suburbia, Bigger Than Life offers an early subversion of its tropes in ways both obvious - Avery's controlling mania undercutting the idea that "father knows best" - and more subtle (there's even a cameo from the star of Leave It to Beaver himself in a bit of black comedy). The film's portrayal of the family's financial precarity and spiritual ennui, even before Avery goes mad, evokes a broader societal malaise behind his own personal drama.

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& Part 2 is available to $5/month patrons

My first review of Bigger Than Life, written after initial viewing in 2008

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