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Douglas Sirk
Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead
Writing Credits:
Peg Fenwick

How much does Heaven allow a woman in love?

An upper-class widow falls in love with a much younger, down-to-earth nurseryman, much to the disapproval of her children and criticism of her country club peers.

Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/10/2014

• Audio Commentary with Film Scholars John Mercer and Tamar Jeffers-McDonald
• “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” Documentary
• “Behind the Mirror: A Profile of Douglas Sirk” Documentary
• “Contract Kid: William Reynolds on Douglas Sirk” Interview
• “Cinema Cinemas” Interview
• Trailer
• DVD Copy

• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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All That Heaven Allows [Blu-Ray] (1955)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 16, 2014)

From director Douglas Sirk, 1955’s All That Heaven Allows introduces us to Cary Scott (Jane Wyman), a wealthy widow whose friends push her to date again. She resists these efforts, as all she encounters is much older men – and married cads who seek affairs.

Cary starts to build a connection with her landscaper, Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), and this gradually leads toward romance. She likes his free-spirited nature, as Ron offers a contrast to the buttoned-down country club vibe of her peers.

This divergence – as well as the age difference between Cary and the younger Ron – causes disapproval in the community. This means Cary needs to decide whether to follow her heart or submit to the pressure of her peers.

As a 47-year-old male, I don’t fit the target audience for the typical “chick flick” – even when that chick flick is older than I am. Just because Heaven came out 12 years before my birth doesn’t alter its inherent emphasis on the female romance fantasy; 21st century chick flicks might offer more explicit sex these days, but they’ve not changed much otherwise since 1955.

With its apparent May/December romance, Heaven does offer one twist, though it’s never totally clear how old Cary and Ron are supposed to be. The film certainly implies a pretty big age difference, as Ron feels like he’s supposed to be 20-something, while Cary – with her two college student kids – comes across as mid-40s. In real life, Wyman was only eight years older than Hudson, but I think Cary is intended to be much more than eight years senior to Ron.

At the risk of seeming catty, Wyman certainly looks a lot older than 38, her actual age in 1955; I can buy her as a woman pushing 50. Whether that’s because of makeup or that’s just because women in the 1950s tended to look older than they do in the 2010s, I’m not sure, but I do buy her as someone reasonably senior to Hudson.

Whatever age-related issues materialize, Wyman does fine in the part, though I don’t think the material requires much talent behind it. In the nearly 60 years since the film’s release, Heaven earned a reputation as a deft social commentary, but I think its admirers overrate its strengths. Yes, the film works best when it addresses the hypocrisy of Cary’s friends and family, but that doesn’t mean it pulls off these elements in a successful manner.

Instead, like much about Heaven, it tends to be obvious and heavy-handed. The film paints its characters in fairly one-dimensional ways that don’t leave much room for interpretation. Cary becomes arguably the only believable personality in the film, as even Ron lacks depth; he exists as a fantasy more than anything else.

While I don’t think a whole lot about the movie’s social commentary, those moments become preferable to the turgid romance on display. Heaven tends toward big, overwrought melodrama, heavy on soap opera.

The flick goes so far in this regard that it borders on parody, honestly. Some of that may have been intentional as another social commentary, but the result doesn’t seem quite incisive enough to make Heaven sharp and wicked.

Instead, it just comes across like a standard weep-fest – albeit one that shows excellent technical elements. I can’t deny that Heaven displays terrific workmanship, as it boasts terrific cinematography and visual design. Clearly Sirk and all involved put a lot of thought and effort into the physical craft of the film.

Unfortunately, the romance at the heart of the film never flies. It’s too melodramatic, and I sense no chemistry between Wyman and Hudson, so the relationship comes across as one-dimensional and contrived. Heaven always remains lovely to look at but too overwrought to entertain.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

All That Heaven Allows appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.75:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer reproduced the film in a satisfying manner.

Sharpness was quite good. Only a smidgen of softness ever interfered in some interior shots; the majority of the film offered strong clarity and accuracy. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes were absent. With a good layer of grain, the image didn’t seem to suffer from digital noise reduction, and in terms of print flaws, I noticed no instances of specks, marks or other concerns.

Most of the time, I thought the film’s hues were vibrant and rich, and they suffered from no bleeding, noise or other issues. A couple of shots could be a little flat, but most demonstrated lively, vivid tones. Black levels looked fairly deep, and shadows were effectively displayed. This turned into a solid presentation.

I found the LPCM monaural soundtrack of Heaven to work fine. It didn’t exceed expectations for a mix of its age, but the audio was more than acceptable. Speech lacked edginess. The lines weren’t always natural – some showed obvious looping - but they seemed distinctive and without problems.

Effects showed no distortion and displayed acceptable definition. Music was pretty lively given its age, as the score sounded reasonably bright and concise. All together, I found little about which to complain, as the soundtrack aged well.

When we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from film scholars John Mercer and Tamar Jeffers-McDonald. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cast and performances, color/visual design and costumes, themes and interpretation, social context, and the nature of the melodrama.

Mercer and Jeffers-McDonald favor interpretation of the film, and they do a good job in that regard. They provide a nice take on the various cinematic techniques on display and flesh out our understanding of the flick. I might’ve liked a bit more “nuts and bolts” about cast and crew, but this remains an involving chat.

From 1992, a program called Rock Hudson’s Home Movies runs one hour, three minutes, and 49 seconds. In it, Eric Farr acts out dialogue meant to relate Hudson’s “inner thoughts” about his sexuality, all while we see clips from Hudson films intended to illustrate these themes.

What were the folks at Criterion thinking when they agreed to include this thoroughly awful “documentary”? “Movies” acts as nothing more than catty innuendo with no substance behind it. Writer/director Mark Rappaport clearly thought of himself as being more clever and insightful than he was; “Movies” becomes a smug, insufferable experience.

Excerpts from a 1979 BBC documentary called Behind the Mirror: A Profile of Douglas Sirk last 57 minutes, 15 seconds. In these, we hear from Sirk as he discusses aspects of his life and career. While not the most exciting piece, “Mirror” covers its subject matter in a concise and informative manner.

We hear from one of the film’s actors via Contract Kid: William Reynolds on Douglas Sirk. In this 23-minute, four-second piece, Reynolds discusses his roles and those with whom he worked. We learn a lot about Reynolds’ experiences in this enjoyable piece.

With Cinema Cinemas, we find a 1982 interview with director Douglas Sirk. It goes for 15 minutes, 53 seconds and examines filmmaking elements and his preferences. The director brings us a nice examination of his stylistic choices.

In addition to the film’s Trailer, the set provides an 18-page booklet. It features an essay from film professor Laura Mulvey as well as a 1971 piece from filmmaker Rainer Warner Fassbinder about Heaven. It’s a quality addition.

The package also includes a DVD copy of Heaven. It replicates the extras from the Blu-ray.

With All That Heaven Allows, we find a well-crafted romance that sputters due to other problems. From its overwrought melodrama to the lack of chemistry between its leads to the thin social commentary, the movie doesn’t present much in the way of entertainment. The Blu-ray brings us very good picture along with more than acceptable audio and a mix of mostly positive bonus materials. I respect the work behind Heaven but the movie itself leaves me cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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