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Desire Under the Elms (1958)

Sophia Loren , Anthony Perkins , Delbert Mann  |  NR |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Desire Under the Elms + Long Day's Journey Into Night + Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (Broadway Theatre Archive)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Sophia Loren, Anthony Perkins, Burl Ives, Frank Overton, Pernell Roberts
  • Directors: Delbert Mann
  • Writers: Eugene O'Neill, Irwin Shaw
  • Producers: Don Hartman
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: August 31, 2004
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002ERWZU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,610 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Desire Under the Elms" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

In DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS, Anna poses tough competition to Ephraim’s bitter sons from his previous marriages, who believe they, not their new stepmother, should inherit all his land. Things heat up when Anna and Ephraim’s son, Eben spend a night of passion together.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dark but compelling! March 3, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
The tape quality is excellent and the fact that's it's in black and white enhances the somber tones of the story and stark contrast of the characters. The highlight of the film is a fine (however brief) performance by a pre-Bonanza Pernell Roberts whose portrayal of a spirited brother lifts some of the oppression that runs throughtout this tale. I've watched this film more than once for it's cinematic beauty and the quality of acting...but this is not a love story, rather a story about love at it's darkest. If I were a fan of Eugene O'Neill I probably would have given this 5 stars.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I think this is one of the best Sophia Loren movies I've ever seen. It is very dark and disturbing. The cast is great, Anthony Perkins (Psycho) Sophia, Burl Ives. When it first came out I think people were a little put off that Sophia Loren, considered more of a Pin-Up was given the role of Mrs Cabot (not originally written as a foriegner). She does outstanding though and both her and Perkins play well together. They fight over the farm, here are some quotes:

"Say it Eban! Everything here is mine and some day I'll take it!" -

"Your Farm! You mean MY FARM!"

There is good support cast too. "So this is our new Ma huh?(refering to Sophia Loren) Why don't you put her in the pen with the other sows?"

The don't make movies like this anymore - Classic! Get it now while you can! The Transfer is very good. Its not perfect but as far I'm conserned it is a perfect release for this era of picture. Good clear picture (B&W,mono ect) and you can hear it fine. Not much for extra features but price is good. It is the first time I've seen it Widescreen. Bravo for Paramount.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so adaptation of O'Neill's play September 18, 2004
Burl Ives plays Ephraim Cabot a greedy miser of a man who has managed to estrange his sons Peter (Pernell Roberts), Simeon (Frank Overton) but most especially Eben (Anthony Perkins) who wears bitterness like an oversized suit. When Ephraim brings home a new, young step-mother for the boys and wife, Anna (Sophia Loren) causes rivalries to begin anew between the brothers, their father but most especially Anna. It seems Ephraim has made the decision to leave the farm Anna when he dies. Eben confronts Anna but their confrontation erupts into passion as the two sleep together.

Eugene O'Neill occupies the same place in American Literature as a playwright as, say, Sophocles did for the Greeks. While Sophocles told of great and heroic characters who fall from grace with the gods, O'Neill focuses on anyone from the average American to the celebrity (I suppose in our screwed up world that's what passes for a "heroic" figure now). O'Neill's best plays ("The Iceman Cometh" and "Long Day's Journey into Night") tend to focus on the everyman and his or her struggles with temptation and how they seek their redemption. While "Desire Under the Elms" isn't O'Neill's best work, it still resonates with a number of difficult and forbidden themes. It's O'Neill's version of "Oedipus" but with characters that for all their heroic qualities, are flawed and simple human beings.

That said this is a so-so film adaptation of O'Neill's play. The fault lies in making the film a "star" vehicle more than anything else. The script compromises the integrity of O'Neill's original play and the direction, although imaginative at times just doesn't bring the drama to life. Mann's opens up the play a bit but some of the sequences still have a static quality to them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hopeless redemption! August 26, 2010
During the late Fifties began to appear those hidden bedroom secrets, paving the way to a new genre of cinematography . Unsaid issues like the conjugal unhappiness (A cat on the tin roof), tantalizing seduction (Niagara and Picnic), the arouse of the deprived sexuality (Baby doll), adultery (Anatomy of a murder) or the crude desperation of the existential loneliness (Butterfly 8) hovered the North American Cinema, since 1953 until the late seventies (Diary of an unmarried woman)

This demolishing story of strong erotic burden for those days, find in this superb adaptation of Eugene O' Neil a fabulous picture around the dilemma of a young woman who will get marry induced for the greed and ambition who finally falls in love with the youngest son of his husband.

The film is for these times definitively dated. However the notorious greatness of the cast composed by Burl Ives, Anthony Perkins and the young Italian promise, the captivating beauty of Sophia Loren still maintains its power to involve and bewitch us.

With all these pieces in motion I recommend you. One of the most mature and remarkable films of 1958.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desire Under the Elms October 31, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I can remember seeing this film when I was a teenager and I never forgot it. I think it is one of Tony Perkins' best acting parts. This DVD is a sharp black and white copy and is first rate. The musical score and sound is perfect.

Robert Moon
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is a classic film in every sense of the word. Taken from an original Eugene O'Neill work, with a screenplay by Irwin Shaw, this 1958 film is shot in black and white, underscoring the sparse rock-filled Vermont landscape with a chilling intensity. Burl Ives is cast in the role of a 76-old man who takes young Sophia Loren for a wife. There is serious conflict because he has three grown sons. Two are from a first wife who he worked to death. The third, Antony Perkins, is from his second wife who gave her husband the money for this farm. She's taught her son about this when he was a boy, showing him where his father has buried his treasure and supporting him in claiming his rightful birthright.

The two older sons are losers, taunting their younger brother all of their lives. But as this young son matures, he pledges to own the land. His mother is dead now and the three young brothers live with their father. When the father goes away for a few weeks young Anthony Perkins takes part of the hidden treasure, gives it to his two good-for-nothing brothers and makes them sign over their inheritance of the farm to him.

The father brings home Sophia Loren and soon she and Perkins are deep into a romance. When she has a son, the father assumes it is his. And then the plot develops into a tragedy of operatic proportions.

The drama of this film is outstanding and so are the performances. I felt I had stepped back in time, even further back than 1958 when the film was made, to the kind of drama that echoed with the passions of hundreds of years in the past. And, in spite of the critics' poor reviews, I really loved this film.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good
Sophia Loren, Anthony Perkins, Pernell Roberts do the best. I wish there were more movies with all 3 of them in it!
Published 5 months ago by maryann
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad
As old black and white movies go this one wasn't bad, but by no means great. Burl Ives does an excellent job, and his performance alone is worth the watch.
Published 5 months ago by Cori K
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Does anyone NOT like Sophia Loren?
I saw this several years ago and decided I would like to see it again.
Published 5 months ago by Joseph S. Carrilho
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophia!
A solid rendering of O'Neill's play, but the combined talent of Sophia Loren and Burl Ives overwhelms the less effective Tony Perkins.
Published 5 months ago by Rick D
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost like watching a play rather than a movie. And it was a play...
A very young Anthony Perkins and Sofia Loren--both quite beautiful and able. A very good performance by Burl Ives (he was an incredible actor/performer/musician). Read more
Published 6 months ago by Holly
5.0 out of 5 stars great classic
this movie is one of the greats of all time. so sad they don't make movies like this anymore. would recommend this movie to every one.
Published 7 months ago by carolyn
4.0 out of 5 stars Good drama
This is the kind of film they don't make anymore. Great acting on the part of Burl Ives as usual.
Published 10 months ago by dawid
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Norman bates
Probably one if the best movies I've ever seen. The chemistry between tony perkins and Sophia Loren is absolutely electrifying. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Isabella
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as it could have been.
This film is based on a play, and it is quite obvious. Also, I don't think the actors received good direction. It's been a disappointment.
Published 11 months ago by Palavering
4.0 out of 5 stars Yeah Eugene O'neil
I really liked this story and the acting. I have watched it several times and have enjoyed it every time.
Published 12 months ago by Jayne H.
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