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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 12:15 am 
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Magnificent Obsession

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Reckless playboy Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson, in his breakthrough role) crashes his speedboat, requiring emergency attention from the town’s only resuscitator—at the very moment that beloved local Dr. Phillips has a heart attack and dies waiting for the life-saving device. Thus begins one of Douglas Sirk’s most flamboyant master classes in melodrama, a delirious Technicolor mix of the sudsy and the spiritual in which Bob and the doctor’s widow, Helen (Jane Wyman), find themselves inextricably linked to one another amid a series of increasingly wild twists, turns, trials, and tribulations. For this release, Criterion also presents John M. Stahl’s 1935 film version of the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor.

SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET FEATURES:

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Audio commentary featuring film scholar Thomas Doherty
- Magnificent Obsession (1935, 102 minutes): a new digital transfer of John M. Stahl’s complete earlier version of the film
- Douglas Sirk: From UFA to Hollywood (1991): a rare 80-minute documentary by German filmmaker Eckhart Schmidt in which Sirk reflects upon his career
- Video interviews with filmmakers Allison Anders and Kathryn Bigelow, paying tribute to Sirk
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 9:04 pm 
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Just for interest's sake I have a chance to shortly get a copy of the "Real" Scope version of Taza which Sirk and Metty shot in 53 in tandem with the standard Flat version (which looks pretty good to me.)

I appreciate the effort you put into experimenting with various masks. I think one that is definitely worth playing with (although I havent done it) is 1.66 for Mag Obs, All that Heaven Allows and even Written on the Wind (which looks OK to me in 1.85. As does There's ALways Tomorrow.) They are all available as open matte originals and there is the historical reality that 1.66 was a common mask in a lot of American theatres during the 1950s. At least beofre 1.85 essentially became the US standard by 1960 (or thereabouts.)


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 9:40 pm 
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The Carlotta MO is definitely an Eastman print, complete with opticals popping etc. It also shows more grain than an IB would. But given Criterion were also working from Universal's Eastman prints for ATHA and WOTW they might be able to beauty shop it up somewhat.

And, in the end the last word on MO's AR really goes to Metty whose lighting of the headroom is exquisite (as it is in the Academy version of Touch of Evil.)

EDIT: You're right, the Scope print is Sign of the Pagan (which I don't even have in standard ratio!)


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:15 am 
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davidhare wrote:
Just for interest's sake I have a chance to shortly get a copy of the "Real" Scope version of Taza which Sirk and Metty shot in 53 in tandem with the standard Flat version (which looks pretty good to me.)

I appreciate the effort you put into experimenting with various masks. I think one that is definitely worth playing with (although I havent done it) is 1.66 for Mag Obs, All that Heaven Allows and even Written on the Wind (which looks OK to me in 1.85. As does There's ALways Tomorrow.) They are all available as open matte originals and there is the historical reality that 1.66 was a common mask in a lot of American theatres during the 1950s. At least beofre 1.85 essentially became the US standard by 1960 (or thereabouts.)

I should note that when we showed All That Heaven Allows in Chicago, Fred Camper and I sat through the final reel of the film three times, first in 1.85, then 1.66, and finally 1.37. We both agreed that the film looked best in Academy (1.37), although both 1.66 and 1.85 looked fine enough (1.66 of course cutting off less on top and bottom than 1.85). This does not mean that Academy is the "correct" ratio in which to show the film (if such a thing can be said to exist), but it does strongly suggest that Sirk shot the film with Academy framing in mind.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:41 am 

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I'd caution against a kind of "more is better" thinking. It's clear that the filmmakers knew that MO would be shown in various aspect ratios and that it would have to work in 2:1, 1.66:1, 1.33:1, etc. Of course the lighting looks good in 1.33:1. Of course there is info in the 1.33:1 frame that isn't in the 2:1 frame. How could it be otherwise? But to suggest that there is somehow "crucial" info in the 1.33:1 frame that doesn't make it into the 2:1 frame is, in the end, to suggest that Sirk and Metty weren't doing there jobs properly.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:03 pm 
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Quote:
It's clear that the filmmakers knew that MO would be shown in various aspect ratios and that it would have to work in 2:1, 1.66:1, 1.33:1, etc.

Well, yes and no. In the Jon Halliday book, Sirk makes a generally exasperated comment on the hiatus at Universal over varying widescreen and standard Academy regimes in the mid-fifties. His remarks sound, on the surface, like he is only talking about Scope vs Academy, but I feel entitled to take an interpretative swipe at this and read him to mean that up to at least 56 he and Metty were obliged to shoot for both (i.e. at least 2 non-Scope ARs!) Certainly he obviously has a complete grasp of widescreen vocabulary and mise en scene for his first Scope movies starting in 54 with Sign of the Pagan and Captain Lightfoot in 55. By 56 the evidence on the screen is there with There's Always Tomorrow to demonstrate his full mastery of the 1.85 frame.

There are also at least two television interviews in which Sirk expresses the same exasperation over the uncertainty at the studio surrounding the transition to widescreen. And this is all in the context of his praise for the conditions in which he found himself at Universal and the supportive working relationships he had with Hunter and Zugsmith.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 3:47 pm 

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Well, it looks like there are only two releases for December. Where is Magnificent Obsession? Wasn't the hint in the newsletter for a December release?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:45 am 
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ebkaram wrote:
Well, it looks like there are only two releases for December. Where is Magnificent Obsession? Wasn't the hint in the newsletter for a December release?

It didn't specify a date. They almost never have in the wacky clues. Some of those clues come along several months before the title is actually added to the schedule (I mean, hell, it was a full year between the White Dog clue and the actual announcement of the title this week...).

Anyway...I seem to remember hearing a while ago (before the clue, even) that Magnificent Obsession is slated for January or February.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:09 pm 
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Specs up


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:12 pm 
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I guess the academy ration will make many happy.

I don't understand why El Norte gets a Blu-ray release, but this film does not. I would guess they'd sell about equally as well. I find it frustrating. And where are the other Blu-ray reissues?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:24 pm 
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Wonderful wonderful wonderificilicious extras.

CC getting back to basics, and me likes.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:24 pm 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
Wonderful wonderful wonderificilicious extras.

Seriously. I already said this elsewhere, but Criterion seems to have rediscovered their mission and redirected themselves with all of these releases: copious extras, great artwork, great films!


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:25 pm 
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Really solid release. Interesting that the Stahl version doesn't get co-billing in the style of The Killers, Lower Depths or Floating Weeds, but at least it's there.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:36 pm 
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The only thing that makes me go "meh" about this release is yet another commentary by a scholar. Too often I've found sitting through these a chore, dry delivery lacking in real enthusiasm and/or passion. Del Toro on Vampyr is more like it. Reservations about the commentary apart, this still looks like a must-have with the earlier version thrown in for good measure and a meaty documentary.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:39 pm 
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Mr Finch wrote:
The only thing that makes me go "meh" about this release is yet another commentary by a scholar.

Let me cancel your vote out by cheering Criterion for introducing a scholarly track. So few other labels ever bother and even Criterion's are becoming fewer and fewer-- of course, we don't know the nature of this one, it might just be a production history :P


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:41 pm 
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The Stahl film is a huge addition. This went from a "maybe" to a "must-buy" on the strength of that extra alone.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:43 pm 
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The doc is what blew my head up to the ceiling. Meaty background on Sirk from his own countrymen... with extensive German subtext-- that's something to clear the cholesterol!

I'll confess I'm rather lucky in that I *cough.. squirm* haven't seen this film yet.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:47 pm 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
The doc is what blew my head up to the ceiling. Meaty background on Sirk from his own countrymen... with extensive German subtext-- that's something to clear the cholesterol!

I'll confess I'm rather lucky in that I *cough.. squirm* haven't seen this film yet.

And we can only hope the documentary includes a number of clips of films from his German period.

Very glad to see the 1935 version included too. Along with the doc and commentary this tips this release from a maybe into must buy territory for me, along with the long awaited Rossellini films.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:51 pm 
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Mr Finch wrote:
The only thing that makes me go "meh" about this release is yet another commentary by a scholar. Too often I've found sitting through these a chore, dry delivery lacking in real enthusiasm and/or passion. Del Toro on Vampyr is more like it. Reservations about the commentary apart, this still looks like a must-have with the earlier version thrown in for good measure and a meaty documentary.

Rayns on any commentary is great, fully of scholarly analysis as well as anecdotes. Also see commentaries on Straw Dogs, Contempt, etc. I think there's actually a thread around here devoted to the topic.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:53 pm 
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I found Rayns on Vampyr kind of detatched & sterile.

Back OT, and speaking for Sirks German films, what aside from La Habanera is available on dvd (and worth watching)?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:02 pm 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
I found Rayns on Vampyr kind of detatched & sterile.

Back OT, and speaking for Sirks German films, what aside from La Habanera is available on dvd (and worth watching)?

With English subs, none. Schlussakkord is a masterpiece, but remains unavailable even in Germany.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:03 pm 
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Rayns is generally good value but Schreck's right re Vampyr: Rayns has been more engaging on, say, the Ugetsu Monogatari track. Stephen Prince and Ginette Vincendeau are two other critics/scholars I appreciate but the majority of the rest bores me to tears.

The Sirk is easily my most-anticipated of January's releases. Bring on 2009.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:07 pm 
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denti alligator wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote:
I found Rayns on Vampyr kind of detatched & sterile.

Back OT, and speaking for Sirks German films, what aside from La Habanera is available on dvd (and worth watching)?

With English subs, none. Schlussakkord is a masterpiece, but remains unavailable even in Germany.

Which is why the German doc seems so obscure and intriguing! Who knew such a thing ever even existed. Thank god for the FWMS, which took the time to excavate Habanera. And Kino of course, who put out his lesser known--but no less qualitative-- melodramas like Lured, Scandal In Paris. etc.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:01 pm 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
I'll confess I'm rather lucky in that I *cough.. squirm* haven't seen this film yet.

I just gotta say, having seen it once, it is fu@kin' weird. And in saying that, I'm not trying to weigh in on whether it is good or bad - it's just real weird.


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 Post subject: Schlußakkord
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:28 pm 
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There's an unsubbed German VHS of Schlußakkord. I have a telecine of an English-subbed print. It's an interesting film; I wouldn't call it a masterpiece.

There's a good chapter about it in Sabine Hake's Popular Cinema of the Third Reich.


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