Directed by Douglas Sirk

USA 1954

 

Reckless playboy Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson, in his breakthrough role) crashes his speedboat, requiring emergency attention from the town’s only resuscitator—at the very moment that beloved local Dr. Phillips has a heart attack and dies waiting for the life-saving device. Thus begins one of Douglas Sirk’s most flamboyant master classes in melodrama, a delirious Technicolor mix of the sudsy and the spiritual in which Bob and the doctor’s widow, Helen (Jane Wyman), find themselves inextricably linked amid a series of increasingly wild twists, turns, trials, and tribulations. For this release, Criterion also presents John M. Stahl’s 1935 film version of the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor.

Posters

1935 Magnificent Obsession lobbycard - on disc 2 of the Criterion package

Theatrical Release: August 4th, 1954

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DVD Comparison:

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Per-Olof Strandberg for the PAL captures

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 457 - Region 1 - NTSC

Universal (UK)

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:47:48  1:43:21 (4% PAL speedup)
Video 2.0:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.75 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.00:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Disc 1

Bitrate:  Disc 2

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.0:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary featuring film scholar Thomas Doherty

• Tribute to Sirk: Video interviews with filmmakers Allison Anders and Kathryn Bigelow, in which they pay tribute to Sirk
• Theatrical trailer

Disc 2
• Magnificent Obsession (1935, 102 minutes), a new digital transfer of John M. Stahl’s earlier version of the film
• From UFA to Hollywood: Douglas Sirk Remembers (1991, 82 minutes), a rare documentary by German filmmaker Eckhart Schmidt in which Sirk reflects upon his career

• 20-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien

DVD Release Date: January 20th, 2009

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 25

Release Information:
Studio: Universal (UK)

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.00:1

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: May 5th, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters 20

 

 

Comments:

ADDITION: Thanks to Jason for sending us 4 Carlotta captures (1.33) - added below - from Sirk Vol. 1 (Imitation of Life, Magnificent Obsession, All that Heaven Allows and A Time to Love and a Time to Die) available HERE.

****

ADDITION Universal (UK): Per Olof has shot us over captures of the single-layered (4.1 Gig), bare-bones, Universal UK edition and says - "They seem fairly similar but the Universal is a shade softer has color bleeding, also the image has a tendency to be unstable". Thanks Per-Olof!

NOTE: Some are not exact frame matches!
 

****

There was quite a debate about the aspect ratio of Sirk's Magnificent Obsession at the Criterion Forum HERE. The discussion centering on how the film was shot (by Metty/Sirk) to how it was shown theatrically ('superscope' - 2.0:1.) We've seen this debate before with films on the cusp of the widescreen revolution (mid 50's). I believe some of these films were exhibited at different AR's depending on the time they were released - or even if the individual theater had been 'updated' or 'retrofitted' for widescreen. Unlike other, later, Sirk widescreen films this has no credit for 'superscope' on the Criterion presentation credits (that I saw.) It is quite probable that this is one of the many transitional anomalies of cinema in that it was composed for full negative but presented in widescreen. As DVDBeaver ListServ member David Hare states '50s ratios are one of the biggest minefields in American film history.'

Personally 2.0:1 does not look 'off' to me but I can see much of the earlier part of the film fitting quite easily in a 1.33:1 frame. I appreciate the widescreen while mise en scene seems quite appropriate - even if it was potentially 'retroactive'.

As you can see by the captures below this Criterion DVD of Magnificent Obsession is in 'superscope' (sometimes known as 'Panascope') 2.0:1. It is anamorphic and looks very good showing grain and free of damage and blemishes. I imagine there may have been some digital restoration but colors, in a relatively soft pallet while hinting at exuberance of color, and detail are exceptional. For SD-DVD I imagine this is the best this film will ever look. Douglas Sirk fans can hope for Blu-ray one day - I'm sure it would bring out even more of the grain and while raising the overall resolution.    

Typical for Criterion - the audio is in original mono with optional English subtitles (sample below.)

Extras on the Criterion include a very professional commentary by film scholar Thomas Doherty. He covers a lot of ground in a very matter-of-fact, but also relaxed, tone. I'd like to hear more from him in the future - he appears to either have extensively researched, or already knows his stuff. Also on disc one are two Fiction Factory (Robert Fischer) tribute pieces from Alison Anders and Kathryn Bigelow- both longtime Sirk fans - shot in California in 2008. These are both available in the excellent Sirk 2 Boxset from Carlotta with - All I Desire (1953), There's Always Tomorrow (1956), Interlude (1957) and The Tarnished Angels (1958) reviewed HERE. There is also a theatrical trailer (2:25)

NOTE: As Robert tells us in email, we have done a slight injustice to the Criterion: "Please allow one small clarification: "A Tribute to Douglas Sirk by Allison Anders" on the Criterion disc is NOT identical to "Perspectives on the American Family: Allison Anders on Douglas Sirk's There's Always Tomorrow" in the Carlotta box. In fact, the Criterion piece, while being much shorter, was edited especially for this edition, and in it, Allison briefly but exclusively discusses MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION."

Disc 2 has the John M. Stahl's 1935 version of Magnificent Obsession looking pretty sweet with some very minor damage (mostly frame specific) but relatively clean and smooth (see caps below) - excellent contrast. We are also treated to From UFA to Hollywood: Douglas Sirk Remembers (1991, 82 minutes), a rare documentary by German filmmaker Eckhart Schmidt in which Sirk reflects upon his career with optional English subtitles. This is wonderful for Sirk fans.

Just incredible release from Criterion - a triumphant masterpiece presented to us in an impeccable boxset worthy of any film lover. Intensely recommended! 

Gary W. Tooze

 



Criterion DVD Menus


 

Criterion Disc 2

 

Universal (UK)


Subtitle Sample Not exact frame

 

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Carlotta (Sirk Box 1) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 


Screen Captures

 

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Carlotta (Sirk Box 1) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Carlotta (Sirk Box 1) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Carlotta (Sirk Box 1) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

 


Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Universal (UK) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

 


Stahl's 1935 version from the Criterion 2nd Disc
 

 


 

 


 

 


DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 457 - Region 1 - NTSC

Universal (UK)

Region 2 - PAL




 

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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

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