All That Heaven Allows: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: 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 does it look?

All That Heaven Allows is presented in a 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a terrific looking presentation and hits all the marks, I never thought this film would look so good. I did see some specks and debris at times, but nothing serious and never enough to lessen the visuals, so no harsh words there. 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. A few small flaws aside, this tremendous transfer will more than delight fans, to be sure.

Audio: How does it sound?

A basic, but effective mono option is used here, so the bases are always covered. The audio here is very clean and no age signs can be heard, again impressive work from Criterion here. I never had a problem with volume levels, crispness, or balance between the elements, this is cleaner than I ever expected. Of course, it is still mono and that means some limitations, but I think this will please everyone, as it is very clean and offers no real room for complaints. This disc also includes English subtitles, in case you might need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The main draw here is about half an hour of Behind the Mirror: A Profile of Douglas Sirk, which is a real pleasure to find included on this release. The interview time with Sirk is fantastic and it was a treat to hear him discuss his work, to say the least. I can’t help but wish this was longer, but I was thrilled with the excerpts included here, to be sure. This disc also includes an illustrated essay by Werner Rainer Fassbinder, selection of still photos & promotional materials, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

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