Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

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Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

Magnificent Obsession (1954)
2xDVD9 | ISO+MDS | NTSC 16:9 | Cover | 01:47:53 | 7,82 Gb + 7,61 Gb
Audio: English AC3 5.1 @ 192 Kbps + Commentary track | Subs: English SDH
Genre: Drama, Romance | The Criterion Collection #457

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 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.

Magnificent Obsession (1935) - IMDB
Director: John M. Stahl
Stars: Irene Dunne, Robert Taylor, Charles Butterworth

Magnificent Obsession (1954) - IMDB
Director: Douglas Sirk
Stars: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead

Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

Film critic Andrew Sarris wrote of director Douglas Sirk, in his landmark book The American Cinema: “Sirk requires no extreme rationalization, and his films require no elaborate defense. Even in his most dubious projects, Sirk never shrinks away from the ridiculous, but by a full-bodied formal development, his art transcends the ridiculous, as form comments on context.” It’s as if he was saying that although Sirk’s classic Hollywood melodramas were indeed filled with meanings and subtexts, all of that ephemera was simply an added pleasure; a surprise under the ever-present Sirkian Christmas tree, if you will. To enjoy and appreciate a “Douglas Sirk Film” all you need to do is merely open your eyes.

Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

Beginning his career in the theaters of Weimar-era Germany, Sirk left Europe, alongside his Jewish wife, as the Nazis came to power and soon ended up a successful Hollywood director with much commercial success, though he was often derided by critics as not being important because of his sensitivity to the role of women, both in film and society. Upon retiring to Switzerland after this brief fling with the studio system in 1959, the expatriate Sirk’s reputation would soon receive an incredible bolstering by the most important film critics of the time: the nouvelle vague writers, particularly Jean Luc Godard of the Cahiers du Cinema. The group, which is responsible for constructing what we now recognize today as “the auteur theory”, elevated Sirk’s directorial prowess and his oeuvre to an art form.

Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

Sirk’s work has been a major, formative influence on contemporary directors the world over. Wong Kar Wai, Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee, Werner Fassbinder, John Waters, and Todd Haynes are but a few of the modern greats who have all directly referenced his work in their own. Sometimes, as with Haynes’ jewel-toned Far from Heaven, the homage is literal both in style and in spirit. There would be no Mad Men on television right now had Sirk’s films not existed.

Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

“Sirkian Melodrama” has become a popular catchphrase for films that ape this particularly colorful, visual style of storytelling with a vintage flair. These other endeavors borrow from Sirk’s tragic, sexy, stylized sensibility, which is almost always finely-attuned to women’s topics, or at least puts its women in the forefront of the narrative. Like a brilliantly-staged opera, Sirk’s films are theatrical feasts, rife with symbolism and hidden meanings.

Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

In Sirk’s vision of Magnificent Obsession, the viewer is treated to a Technicolor dream world where truth is often kept suffocated in favor of the expected or the mundane. Emotions, motivations, and realities all bubble well beneath the lacquered surface, and are often treated in merely a symbolic way. This leaves viewers to decode the messages for themselves, making for a welcome challenge. The characters are a product of their stiff, moral culture. To challenge the status quo would be fatal for them; a form of social suicide. Still, Sirk finds a way to work each of his character’s angles to maximize their impact. He explores behavior through archetypes, shading personality with scalpel-sharp precision.

Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

Based on a popular Lloyd C. Douglas book, Sirk’s 1954 adaptation of Magnificent Obsession is certainly not lacking in the suds department. Initially filmed to little acclaim in 1935, the remake succeeded in bringing actor Rock Hudson his first major starring role and success. Sirk also saw leading lady Jane Wyman to an Oscar nomination for Best Actress after she sought the property out, wanting to play the female role first tackled by Irene Dunne in the John M. Stahl original—which is also digitally-remastered and included here, along with a rare, comprehensive film documentary on Sirk called From UFA to Hollywood: Douglas Sirk Remembers.
Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]
Magnificent Obsession (1935) + Magnificent Obsession (1954) [The Criterion Collection #457] [Re-UP]

- Magnificent Obsession (1954)
- Audio commentary featuring film scholar Thomas Doherty
- Tribute to Sirk: Video interviews with filmmakers Allison Anders and Kathryn Bigelow, in which they pay tribute to Sirk
- Theatrical trailer

Disc 2:
- Magnificent Obsession (1935, Black & White, English lang/subs, 102 mins), a new digital transfer of John M. Stahl’s earlier version of the film
- From UFA to Hollywood: Douglas Sirk Remembers (1991, 82 minutes), a rare documentary by German filmmaker Eckhart Schmidt in which Sirk reflects upon his career

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