BIGGER THAN LIFE
1956, 20th Century Fox, 95 min, USA, Dir: Nicholas Ray

Director Nicholas Ray’s subversively twisted portrait of suburban life centers on a teacher (James Mason) who becomes addicted to a new drug, cortisone, and experiences visionary, tyrannical delusions. Ray’s superb use of color and shot composition reaches a deliriously surreal intensity here that at times borders on the psychedelic. In addition to one of Mason’s finest performances, there’s also standout work from co-stars Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau.


NORTH BY NORTHWEST
1959, Warner Bros., 136 min, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Cary Grant gives one of his greatest performances as womanizing executive Roger Thornhill, whose cozy life of afternoon cocktails is turned upside down when he’s mistaken for an elusive government operative by suave villain James Mason and his murderous crony, Martin Landau. Eva Marie Saint co-stars as Mason’s elegant mistress, with the wonderful Jesse Royce Landis as Grant’s fur-clad society mom ("You gentlemen aren’t really trying to murder my son, are you?"). Includes some of the most superb set pieces ever filmed - from a seemingly innocuous cornfield to the monolithic Mount Rushmore. Brilliantly scripted by Ernest Lehman (THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS) and photographed by veteran Hitchcock collaborator Robert Burks (STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, REAR WINDOW).


AGE OF CONSENT
1969, Sony Repertory, 103 min, Australia, Dir: Michael Powell

James Mason is at his crotchety, hard-drinking best as Rabelaisian artist Bradley Morrison, sojourning on a remote isle off the Great Barrier Reef to try to jumpstart his dried-up muse. He finds inspiration unexpectedly in the form of nubile free spirit Cora Ryan (a delightful, gorgeous Helen Mirren in one of her earliest roles), an outspoken teenager living with her alcoholic harridan of an aunt (Neva Carr-Glynn). With a great turn by Jack MacGowran (CUL-DE-SAC, FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS) as Mason’s ne’er-do-well friend and Harold Hopkins as Mirren’s smitten, wannabe beau. Mason’s character was based on painter Norman Lindsay, famous for his sumptuous paintings of voluptuous nudes in natural settings.


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