Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Bigger Than Life


Hard to remember that not all that long ago, cortisone was a “miracle drug.” I’ve had cortisone injections into my knees. I wasn’t aware that it can turn you in a paranoid bipolar megalomaniac, but apparently it can. This movie stars James Mason as a man with a disease that will kill him soon, and can only be treated by the new drug. But they aren’t as cautious as they might be about the side effects. Mason alternates between manic and depressive states, and finally is ready to sacrifice his son, as Abraham was called on to do. It’s a good film, well-written and acted, except for the little boy, but he’s no worse than most kid actors from the ’50. It was directed by Nicholas Ray and is hailed by some as a masterpiece. I sure don’t see that, but it’s mostly French critics who say that, so you have to make a “Jerry Lewis” allowance. I do understand it was ground-breaking at the time, and even controversial for its depiction of an American family that was less amicable than Ozzie and Harriet. Jeez, that’s hard to believe, they are so white-bread conventional, until Dad’s breakdown. We were all trying to live in a dream world back then, just denying everything bad that happened in the home, like wife-beating and child abuse. One scene is fairly amazing. Mason stands behind the screen of an actual fluoroscope! Remember those? If you’re too young to, you’re lucky. I shiver to wonder just how many rads he’s soaking up … but it gets worse. The doctor, the nurse, and the x-ray tech are all there in the room with him! Astonishing, when you think of how, these days, they wrap you in lead and the tech scurries behind the nuclear blast shield. Well, in those days they had fluoroscopes in shoe stores! Yes! I used to regularly visit one in Corsicana, Texas, to look down and see the bones of my feet! If I die of toe cancer, you’ll know the reason why.