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The Criterion Collection presents

All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Cary: "It should be so simple. Two people who are in love with each other, who want to be married. Why is it so difficult all of a sudden?"
Ron: "It isn't, if you aren't afraid."- Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson

Stars: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead
Other Stars: Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey, Gloria Talbott, William Reynolds, Charles Drake, Hayden Rorke, Jacqueline deWit
Director: Douglas Sirk

Manufacturer: American Zoetrope
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:28m:46s
Release Date: 2001-06-05
Genre: romance

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

For much of the 1950s, Douglas Sirk was the acknowledged master of the melodrama. Using music, romantic leads (notably Rock Hudson, who was not yet a gay icon) and tearjerking scripts, he reliably made films that did excellent business for Universal-International. He hit the big time with Magnificent Obsession, starring Jane Wyman and Hudson, and the appeal to reteam this threesome was irresistible.

Wyman stars as Cary Scott, a widow in small town Stoningham. With two children off at college, she's lonely and unhappy. Her friend Sara (Agnes Moorehead) tries to get her involved with the country club set and various distinguished gentlemen (read: aged hypochondriacs), but nothing seems to strike fire. Then Cary notices Ron Kirby (Hudson), her tree trimmer. As she talks to him, she is visibly overcome with lust. Ron is a Thoreau-loving tree-raising individualist of the fiercest stripe, whereas Cary is thoroughly conventional. When they finally do get together, Cary's children are mortified and the gossips of the town have a field day. Soon Cary feels that she has no choice but to give up Ron. But is that the best decision? And can she do that?

Wyman does a surprisingly good job in the starring role, despite some unfortunate makeup decisions. She convincingly gives the impression of a woman torn between her heart and her desire to fit in and not ruin her children's futures. She and Hudson have a good chemistry together, which Sirk plays to the hilt. Gloria Scott is a real standout as Cary's daughter Kay, a psychology-spouting Princeton student who is completely unable to apply her lessons to her own life. She and William Reynolds as son Ned are superb as a pair of spoiled brats who disregard their mother's happiness to gratify their own selfish wants, despite their imminent departure for their own lives. Also noteworthy is Jacqueline deWit as Mona Plash, the prime small town gossip who delights in dragging everyone through the mud. Though the story sounds rather pat, there are some very good moments, such as when Ron suddenly stops and admits just how easy it would be to give up his principles and what he cares about to fit into Cary's life, wrong as it may be for him.

Sirk as usual does interesting things with reflections; most notable is the sight of Wyman reflected in the tube of the television that her kids buy her to keep her company in her lonely widowhood. She stares dejectedly into the screen as it stares back at her, symbolizing how empty her life will become, to the point that she has nothing but the simulation of life on the tube (if only she had DVD!).

The film is undeniably moving and guaranteed to make the tears well up. If you're looking for a romantic movie, this one should be at the top of your list.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic transfer is outstanding in some respects, and disappointing in others. On the plus side, the Technicolor is eyepopping, with preternaturally vivid reds and blues, and gorgeous autumn finery everywhere. Black levels are excellent as well, though shadow detail is sometimes lacking. In the negative side of the ledger is an odd softness to the picture that at times seems almost blurry. Detail is pretty good, but not terribly sharp. A couple of instances of major frame damage are visible, and there is pretty constant speckling throughout the film. At times, the framing seems overly tight as well. The opening credits barely fit in the screen, and the scene of Hudson and Wyman dancing cuts the tops of their heads off. I'm no expert on this film so it's possible that that's the way it was shot, but it definitely looks cramped.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono is featured. While dialogue is consistently clear, there is also a fair amount of hiss and occasional crackle to be heard. This audio could have been cleaned up more. It does, however, have excellent bass extension for a mono track, giving good depth to the musical score that is of vital importance in a Sirk film.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:00m:35s

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills, lobby cards and posters
  2. Essay by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Extras Review: Heading up the list of extras is a set of interview excerpts with Sirk from a 1979 BBC program. These interview comments are insightful and thoughtful (including the amazing fact that Sirk really didn't like melodrama much at all), but oddly enough, the featured film isn't addressed in the interviews at all. The editing of the interview clips is overly aggressive, cutting Sirk off in mid-word to go to intertitles. The running time is 31m:23, only half of the time promised on the keepcase cover, which is a disappointment. A lengthy essay by Fassbinder on six of Sirk's movies (including this one) is included, and it also gives an irreverent view of the films that is refreshing. Most notable is his comment that only in Sirk's movies do you see women think instead of react; he may be off base here, but there is a certain amount of validity to the point especially if you recall he was writing in 1971.

A set of 25 stills, six lobby cards and two posters is included in a gallery of art related to the film. Finally, there is an anamorphic theatrical trailer that actually looks better than the feature itself. The layer change, unlike many recent Criterion releases, is well-placed in the middle of a fade to black; it will hardly be noticeable on most players.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Hudson, Wyman and Sirk march to a different drummer here, and the results are moving and effective. The disc sports a decent transfer, though with slightly noisy sound. The extras are good, if not entirely devoted to this film.

Mark Zimmer 2001-07-25