Each week we’re recommending a movie from the film lover’s favorite home video company, Criterion. The Criterion Collection is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest technical quality with supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film. This week, Bigger Than Life.
Though ignored at the time of its release, Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life is now recognized as one of the great American films of the 1950s.
When a friendly, successful suburban teacher and father (James Mason, in one of his most indelible roles) is prescribed cortisone for a painful, possibly fatal affliction, he grows dangerously addicted to the experimental drug, resulting in his transformation into a psychotic and ultimately violent household despot. This Eisenhower-era throat-grabber, shot in expressive CinemaScope, is an excoriating take on the nuclear family. That it came in the day of Father Knows Best makes it all the more shocking—and wildly entertaining.
- High-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary featuring critic Geoff Andrew (The Films of Nicholas Ray)
- Profile of Nicholas Ray (1977), a half-hour television interview with the director
- New video appreciation of Bigger Than Life with author Jonathan Lethem (Chronic City)
- New video interview with Susan Ray, widow of the director and editor of I Was Interrupted: Nicholas Ray on Making Movies
- Theatrical trailer
- English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing