I find the “dark underbelly of American suburbia” genre mostly a bore, and (for a concept beloved of “progressive” critics) frankly bourgeois and borderline colonialist: are they really saying that living in a spacious home in a safe neighborhood and enjoying a steady paycheck, which you spend at a comically over-stocked grocery store, is really such a terrible fate — as bad as scratching out an existence in Ethiopia?
It’s the kind of thesis only spoiled people could conceive of. Of course, most of us are such spoiled people, so at various times in our lives, particularly adolescence (Bigger Than Life was Ray’s follow up to Rebel Without a Cause) the theme takes hold of you.
I have not seen Bigger Than Life, but have taken massive levels of cortisone (in the form of prednisone) — at one point, 60mg/day for about four months. You cannot become “addicted” to it, as we currently understand addiction, but then, this film was made in 1956.
Dependent, yes, but you can say that of every drug: “stop using it and the good things it does will stop.” No one who stops taking prednisone physically craves it, obsessively daydreams about it, or breaks into drugstores to get it.
Having endured excruciating pain for months, prednisone offered me instant relief. Yes, it makes you very hyper (and hungry) — feeling “well-er than well”; “bigger than life” is an ingenious title for a film about it. But the physical side effects are embarrassing and depressing — I went from a size 0 to a 14 — and ultimately harmful, so you want nothing more than to get off it. James Mason looks nothing like an individual taking large and long-term doses of cortisone.
That said, it looks like sub-Sirkian fun, so it is now on my list.