Screened as part of NZIFF 2005

Bigger Than Life 1956

Directed by Nicholas Ray

James Mason plays a mild school teacher unhinged by cortisone in Nicholas Ray’s blistering expose of 50s family values. “Sharper and fiercer than ever.” — The Guardian

USA In English
95 minutes 35mm / CinemaScope



Cyril Hume, Richard Maibaum. Based on a New Yorker article by Berton Roueche


Joe MacDonald


Louis Loeffler


David Raskin


James Mason
Barbara Rush
Walter Matthau
Robert Simon
Christopher Olsen


“Did Arnold Schwarzenegger abuse steroids? The question swam into my mind watching this compelling re-release of Nicholas Ray’s 1956 study of an all-American paterfamilias driven mad by popping cortisone tablets. The spectacle of Governor Schwarzenegger… makes Ray’s classic satire of American family values sharper and fiercer than ever… Ray’s film was inspired by a New Yorker article about a schoolteacher mentally unbalanced by experimental cortisone treatment. But the script, revised by Gavin Lambert and Clifford Odets, brilliantly seizes on this realistic premise as a licence for imagining madness and cruelty buttoned up in middle America. Ray smuggles an absurdist nightmare into an issue movie about drug abuse.” — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian 

“James Mason’s furrowed brow and brooding presence have rarely (never?) been used to better effect: 30 years on, his performance as the mild schoolteacher who is prescribed the wonder drug cortisone and becomes a raving megalomaniac addict remains profoundly disturbing…” — Chris Auty, Time Out Film Guide