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Magnificent Obsession Criterion Blu-ray Review

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“Magnificent Obsession” is pure Douglas Sirk.

In the 1954 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Lloyd C. Douglas, the story revolves around a rich, spoiled, stubborn, selfish, wild sportsman (Bob) who nearly dies after a speedboat crash. He is miraculously brought back to life by a local Doctor’s resuscitator but in a cruel twist of fate that very Doctor (Wayne) dies of a heart attack without it. Bob eventually tries to make amends and turn his life around, but an accident involving Wayne’s wife (Helen) blinded. Bob eventually decides to become a Doctor himself and even secretly tries to help Helen during her blind state unbeknownst to her. The two begin to fall for one another, but their romance becomes complicated. Will the two wind up together? Will Helen ever see again? You’ll have to find out.

“Magnificent Obsession” is essentially a glorified 50s romantic soap opera, but that is the niche that director Douglas Sirk carved out for himself. For some, these types of weepy melodramatic movies are tough to swallow while others may find themselves enchanted by the emotional vibrant Technicolor spectacles. Of course, it’s entirely possible to find yourself in both camps as well.

The corny drama, the over-the-top score by Frank Skinner, the seemingly endless amount of tragedies, it can all be a bit much to say the least. And yet, there’s something fascinating about this era of cinema. It’s a real time capsule of the past, but more than that, it’s the curious work of a filmmaker who created his own genre as it were. Say what you will about the script by Robert Blees, but Sirk himself really used Technicolor to its full advantage. The colors and the striking location shooting are truly cinematic and visually stunning.

With a lesser cast, this movie could have been a real disaster, but the stellar cast containing Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead and Barbara Rush try to make it as grounded as humanly possible. Hudson is the real stand-out here as Bob. The late actor had such a commanding screen presence. Wyman is also strong here as Helen. Her chemistry with Hudson was entirely believable.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.00:1 1080p. How does it look? Between the stunning Technicolor and the unique aspect ratio, this transfer is deeply impressive.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? An all-around crisp Mono track.

Extras:
* A booklet featuring credits, photos and an essay by author Geoffrey O’Brien.
* A “Magnificent Obsession” trailer
* 2 individual tributes to Douglas Sirk from 2008 by directors Allison Anders and Kathryn Bigelow.
* A 19 minute 2009 interview with screenwriter Robert Blees who talks about Sirk, Universal, the scripts he wrote, and more.
* “From UFA To Hollywood: Douglas Sirk Remembers”- A feature length 1991 documentary that features a 1980 interview with Douglas Sirk about his career.
* A very scripted but informative 2008 commentary by film scholar/author Thomas Doherty.
* The big extra here is the inclusion of the restored 1935 version of “Magnificent Obsession” starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor. While the version pales in comparison to Sirk’s, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two.

August 19, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , ,

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