James Mason has picked a powerful subject for his first 20th-Fox production and delivers it with quite a bit of dramatic distinction in carrying out the supervisory duties and as the male lead. Bigger Than Life exposes the good and bad in cortisone.
A great deal of care is taken in the forceful, realistically drafted screenplay [based on a New Yorker article by Berton Rouche] to give both sides of the case, while at the same time telling a gripping, dramatic story of people that become very real under Nicholas Ray’s wonder-working direction. The performances are standout, with Barbara Rush earning particular praise as Mason’s wife.
Mason is exceptionally fine as the modestly-circumstanced grade school teacher who undergoes a series of experiments with cortisone in the hope he can be cured of a usually fatal disease. At first the experiments progress promisingly, but he begins to overdose himself and some startling personality changes occur.
Christopher Olsen scores with his tremendously effective study of Mason’s young son.