Bigger Than Life (1956)

Bigger Than Life was a DeLuxe Color CinemaScope film made in 1956 directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Mason, who also co-wrote and produced the film.

Bigger Than Life concerns a school teacher and family man whose life spins out of control upon becoming addicted to cortisone. The film co-stars Barbara Rush as his wife and Walter Matthau as his closest friend, a fellow teacher. 

James Mason in that traditional Hollywood 'car shot' driving to score some cortisone

Though it was a box-office flop upon its initial release, many modern critics hail it as a masterpiece and brilliant indictment of contemporary attitudes towards mental illness and addiction.

Barbara Rush in Bigger Than Life

Schoolteacher and family man Ed Avery (James Mason) has been suffering bouts of severe pain and even blackouts.  He is hospitalised with what's diagnosed as polyarteritis nodosa, a rare inflammation of the arteries. Told by doctors that he probably has only months to live, Ed agrees to an experimental treatment: doses of the hormone cortisone.

This is where it all goes wrong however, and Ed's abuse of the cortisone is brilliantly portrayed, as is his struggle with addiction and descent into almost Nietzschean madness.

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