All That Heaven Allows: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

June 3, 2014 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) is a wealthy widow who feels very repressed, due to being lonely and often cooped up inside her home. Her husband has passed on of course and she has two children, but both are college aged and as such, no longer offer the same companionship as they did as younger kids. She soon discovers a young man named Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), who works in her gardens and although he comes from humble roots, he is a good man. She meets him while he is pruning her trees and she falls for him right there, even though he is younger and from a different social status. He soon falls in love with her also and it seems like a match made in heaven, until others find out and begin to gossip about it, to no end. Now all of her social peers have started to disapprove of this union, because of the age and status gaps involved, while Cary also fears the wrath of her own children. Ron is a stable man who can ignore all of these elements, but Cary is not of the same mold and as such, may not be able to rise above the others.

This is not my personal choice as Douglas Sirk’s finest work, but I am glad to see it given a release, especially as part of The Criterion Collection. Sirk’s direction is good as always, the lead performances are excellent, and the visuals are gorgeous, but All That Heaven Allows just doesn’t click with me, I suppose. I think it was very well made and has some superb elements, but the story never jives with me and that makes me less interested. I mean, the characters are terrific and the premise seems good, but the details seem glossed over or something, this one just lacks a little something I was looking for, I guess. It has some great moments however and is well worth seeking out, so don’t avoid it by any means. Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman turn in memorable lead performances, while the Technicolor visuals will keep you interested, even if you hate melodramas like this one. I still think the good outweighs the bad with All That Heaven Allows, even though it doesn’t connect with me like some of Sirk’s efforts do. This movie is recommended and since it has a great disc from Criterion, there’s no reason to pass on this edition.

This is a real soap piece from Douglas Sirk, who knew how to turn melodrama into a cinematic artform and draw in the crowds. As I mentioned above, this is not one of my choices as his better work, but even then, Sirk’s direction provides so many things to like, so I simply can’t dismiss All That Heaven Allows. I find that to be a real compliment to his skills, as even his weaker efforts (which this is not one of) have redeeming qualities, so they’re worth a look if nothing else. I wouldn’t place him with my favorite directors per se, but Sirk was a masterful director and more than deserves the praise he is given. Other films directed by Sirk include A Scandal in Paris, All I Desire, Written on the Wind, There’s Always Tomorrow, Magnificent Obsession, and Imitation of Life. The cast here includes Rock Hudson (Seconds, Ice Station Zebra), Jane Wyman (Pollyanna, The Yearling), Agnes Moorehead (The Left Hand of God, Tv’s Bewitched), Gloria Talbott (Alias Jesse James, The Crimebusters), and Conrad Nagel (The Vicious Circle, One Million B.C.).

Video: How’s it look?

Criterion continues their commitment to making all of their titles the best-looking out there and All That Heaven Allows has been restored and given a new 2K digital restoration. This is a step up from the previous DVD (also included) and the picture seems to have a cleaned up look.  The colors look vibrant and lush, much richer than expected, and with no signs of fading at all, very impressive indeed. This film thrives on color and this transfer delivers in spades in that respect, while flesh tones remain neutral, as intended. A slight bit of grain is evident at times, but usually the contrast is sharp free from defects, as it is well balanced throughout. While not perfect, it’s a noticeable improvement from the DVD.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Also improved are the sonics with a new uncompressed mono track. I’ve often wondered at the actual difference between an “uncompressed” mono track and a plain mono track, but comparing the DVD and Blu-ray solved my dilemma. Since there’s not a lot going on, I’ll just say that the sonics are improved, vocals seem on the mark and while there are no surround effects to distract us, it’s a nice, solid-sounding mix that’s sure to please.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The features appear to be the same from the previous two disc DVD (also included).

  • Audio Commentary – Film scholars John Mercer and Tamar Jeffers-McDonald combine to present a pretty interesting commentary track. Clearly both are fans of the film, know their stuff and make for an insightful and informative track.
  • Rock Hudson’s Home Movies – Mark Rappaport gives us an essay on the late actor with some very unique footage that I’ve never seen anywhere else.  It’s an interesting look at one of Hollywood’s most notable actors of the day.
  •  Television Interview – Originally aired on French television, these are conversations with director Douglas Sirk circa 1982.
  • Behind the Mirror: A Profile of Douglas Sirk –  A more retrospective look is the 1979 BBC documentary featuring rare interview footage with the director.
  • Contract Kid: William Reynolds on Douglas Sirk   This is an interview with the actor who appeared in three Sirk films including All That Heaven Allows. Circa 2007, it’s a nice feature that fans will enjoy.
  •  Theatrical Trailer
  •  DVD Copy
  • Booklet – This features an essay by film scholar Laura Mulvey and an excerpt from a 1971 essay on Sirk by filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder


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