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All That Heaven Allows [Blu-ray]
(Douglas Sirk, 1955)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Universal International Pictures (UI)
Video: Criterion Collection Spine #95
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 49,619,130,680 bytes
Feature Size: 26,232,920,064 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: June 10th, 2014
Aspect ratio: 1.75:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English (SDH), none
• Audio commentary featuring film scholars John Mercer and
Description: This heartbreakingly beautiful indictment of 1950s American mores by Douglas Sirk follows the blossoming love between a well-off widow (Jane Wyman) and her handsome and earthy younger gardener (Rock Hudson). When their romance prompts the scorn of her children and country club friends, she must decide whether to pursue her own happiness or carry on a lonely, hemmed-in existence for the sake of the approval of others. With the help of ace cinematographer Russell Metty, Sirk imbues nearly every shot with a vivid and distinct emotional tenor. A profoundly felt film about class and conformity in small-town America, All That Heaven Allows is a pinnacle of expressionistic Hollywood melodrama.
One of director Douglas Sirk's best and most successful romantic soapers of the 1950s, All That Heaven Allows is predicated on a May-December romance. The difference here is that the woman, attractive widow Cary Scott (Jane Wyman), is considerably older than the man, handsome gardener-landscaper Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). Sirk builds up sympathy for Cary by showing how empty her life has been since her husband's death, even suggesting that the marriage itself was no picnic. Throwing conventional behavior to the winds and facing social ostracism, Cary pursues her romance with Ron, who is unjustly perceived as a fortune-hunter by Cary's friends and family--especially her priggish son Ned (William Reynolds). Amusingly, Conrad Nagel was to have had a much larger part as Harvey, an elderly widower who carries a torch for Cary, but his role was trimmed down during previews when audiences disapproved of an implicit romance between a sixtyish man and a fortysomething woman! All That Heaven Allows was remade by unabashed Douglas Sirk admirer Rainer Werner Fassbinder as Fear Eats the Soul (1974), in which the age gap between hero and heroine was even wider.Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
On the surface a glossy tearjerker about the problems besetting a love affair between an attractive middle class widow and her younger, 'bohemian' gardener, Sirk's film is in fact a scathing attack on all those facets of the American Dream widely held dear. Wealth produces snobbery and intolerance; family togetherness creates xenophobia and the cult of the dead; cosy kindness can be stultifyingly patronising; and materialism results in alienation from natural feelings. Beneath the stunningly lovely visuals - all expressionist colours, reflections, and frames-within-frames, used to produce a precise symbolism - lies a kernel of terrifying despair created by lives dedicated to respectability and security, given its most harrowing expression when Wyman, having given up her affair with Hudson in order to protect her children from gossip, is presented with a television set as a replacement companion. Hardly surprising that Fassbinder chose to remake the film as Fear Eats the Soul.Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
All That Heaven Allows looks super-rich on Blu-ray from Criterion. Firstly, I have no idea what the film looked like almost 60-years ago - but I was immediately surprised at the depth of the colors. The image might have a smidgeon of teal-leaning but most colors, like reds and nature greens, appear strong and lustrous. This is dual-layered with a max'ed bitrate and the textured grain-filled visuals are, almost, hypnotic. We will probably compare to the German Blu-ray at some point. This is in the original 1.75:1 aspect ratio and contrast is consistent and impressive. There isn't an abundance of depth but it looks clean and beautiful in-motion. This Blu-ray offers a clean, rich, 1080P presentation.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Criterion use a linear PCM 1.0 channel mono track at 1152 kbps to authentically replicate the film's original audio. Along with Liszt's Consolation No.3 in D flat major and Brahms Symphony No.1 inC minor, Op.68: 4th movement, we get the wonderful score by Frank Skinner (Magnificent Obsession, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and The Naked City) - which all benefits from the lossless rending although there is, obviously, no range or separation. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.
Recorded by the Criterion Collection in 2014, this new included audio commentary features film scholars John Mercer (Melodrama: Genre, Style, Sensibility) and Dr. Tamar Jeffers-McDonald (author of Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre). They look at Sirk's masterpiece from all angles and export a interesting discussion - very professional. In Rock Hudson's Home Movies - running an hour 3-minutes from 1992, filmmaker Mark Rappaport explores the actor's sexuality and celebrity through provocative mixture of voice-over narration, film clips and live action. Criterion include an hour's worth of excerpts from Behind the Mirror: A Profile of Douglas Sirk, a 1979 BBC documentary, produced and hosted by Mark Shivas, featuring rare interview footage with the director. Contract Kid: William Reynolds on Douglas Sirk, another excellent Fiction Factory video - it runs twenty-three minutes filled with interesting first-hand comments on the Hollywood of the 50s. Shortly after his 1951 debut in William Wyler’s Carrie, at Paramount, Reynolds became a “contract kid” at Universal, joining the throng of attractive young “stars of the future”. Reynolds never became a star, but was a familiar regular in many films of the period. Here the charming, dapper seventy-six year old actor who appeared in three of Douglas Sirk’s finest films (has Anybody Seen My Gal, There's Always Tomorrow and All That Heaven Allows), compares working with Sirk, Wyler and Henry Hathaway, highlights the contribution of photographer Russell Metty, and shares his impressions of Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson and Barbara Stanwyck. Included is a 15-minute French television (Cinema cinemas) interview with director Douglas Sirk from April 14th, 1982. The package has a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Laura Mulvey and an excerpt from a 1971 essay on Sirk by filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
May 20th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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