Bigger Than Life

A new miracle drug causes malevolent side effects for a happily married schoolteacher (James Mason) in Nicholas Ray’s searing melodrama.

Bigger Than Life is one of the greatest American films of the 1950s, a high point in the careers of lead actor James Mason and director Nicholas Ray.

James Mason gives a towering performance as Ed Avery, a happily married schoolteacher who agrees to take a new ‘miracle drug’ when diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease. It is not long before the drug begins producing malevolent and murderous side-effects that bring to the fore all of Ed’s long-repressed frustrations with his life.

Mason’s support is exceptional: Barbara Rush as Ed’s devoted wife, Christopher Olsen as his cruelly punished son and Walter Matthau as his faithful colleague.

One of the cinema’s most persuasive portraits of psychological turmoil, the film also succeeds magnificently as searing melodrama and subversive social critique, with Ray, his scriptwriters and cinematographer achieving a perfect balance between emotional realism and expressionist allegory.

Special features

  • Feature commentary by Edward Buscombe.
  • New filmed conversation about the film and Nicholas Ray between Jim Jarmusch (fan, friend and assistant on the last film Ray made) and Jonathan Rosenbaum.
  • Extracts from a 1969 interview with Nicholas Ray.
  • Original theatrical trailer.
  • Fully illustrated 22-page colour booklet with essays by Geoff Andrew, author of The Films of Nicholas Ray (BFI, 2004); Jeanine Basinger and Susan Ray, and biographies.

Product information

    • Certificate

      12

    • Colour

      Colour

    • Sound

      Sound

    • Running time

      91mins

    • Languages

      English

    • Subtitles

      English for the hard-of-hearing

    • Original aspect ratio

      2.35:1

    • DVD region

      • 2 Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories

    • Blu-ray region

      • B - Includes most European and Middle-Eastern countries, all of Africa, Australia and New Zealand

    • Catalogue number

      BFIVD672

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