There are some genre of movies that just do not seem like they could ever go together. Everyone loves a good romantic comedy or a mystery thriller, but is anyone in a rush to see a musical porno?The Big Clock from 1948 is a comedy noir with an interesting tone that draws the viewer in with its different take on the genre. The movie can be a little too silly at times, but is an overall enjoyable watch.
The Big Clock is the story of George Stroud. Stroud is the editor-in-chief of Crimeways magazine. Using a blackboard and what he refers to as “irrelevant” clues, Stroud has made a name for himself by solving missing person cases. The downside to his great work is his power mad boss does not allow Stroud to take vacation. When Stroud decides he has had enough, his decision leads to a series of events that involves murder and hijinx.
First and foremost, The Big Clock is a murder mystery. Director John Farrow does things a little differently, however. The audience actually sees the murder happen. The mystery is in how the investigation plays out. Due to his previous success in finding missing people, Stroud is called in to find the murderer. Unbeknownst to everyone on the case, Stroud was actually the last person seen with the victim. The movie becomes a race between Stroud trying to find the real killer while also trying to prevent others from finding him – even as he leads the investigation!
It may sound confusing, but it never is. The plot is well written and the story flow smoothly. Even though there are quite a number of characters and names to remember, everything is done in a way that is easy to follow. Many times when mysteries try to get cute, they end up frustrating the audience and losing them. That is never an issue in The Big Clock.
The mystery itself is very engaging. The story is not about discovering a murderer but revealing his true identity. Watching as Stroud tries to remain hidden in plain sight is very fun. It should be very contrived, but most of the close calls work. (There is an encounter with a painter that is pretty silly.) The movie works so well since it is not another case of mistaken identity. Instead, there are two killers roaming around in broad daylight. It is a unique take to say the least.
The term “Hitchcockian” is thrown around to describe a particularly good horror movie or thriller. Hitchcockian would certainly be the right word when talking about The Big Clock. The film is not Hitchcockian in the normal sense of the term. Alfred Hitchcock did a wonderful job of mixing humor even into his darkest movies. Farrow is able to do the same. It is far from perfect (some of the jokes are just begging for a rimshot), but for the most part it works very well. This is just another way the movie is able to set itself apart from its contemporaries.
The Big Clock is a film noir that is something that other movies of the genre are afraid to be: unabashedly funny. Though the humor can be over the top and even out of place at times, it never falls into parody. The unique story will keep its audience invested while the writing makes sure the admittedly absurd plot never gets out of hand. Anyone looking to watch something slightly different can do a lot worse.