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Magnificent Obsession (The Criterion Collection)

4.2 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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.

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

Additional Features

Criterion's double-disc edition of Magnificent Obsession shines a light on two directors, four stars, and one author. In 1935, John M. Stahl adapted Lloyd C. Douglas's 1929 potboiler with Irene Dunne as the widowed Helen Hudson and Robert Taylor as Bob Merrick, the sportsman-turned-doctor who shakes up her world. In 1954, Douglas Sirk filmed the story with Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, with whom he would re-team for All That Heaven Allows (Sirk remade three Stahl pictures, most notably Imitation of Life). In his wide-ranging commentary track, film scholar Thomas Doherty describes the former Klaus Detlef Sierck as "the maestro of the Hollywood soap opera," arguing that his adaptation is "more firmly grounded in reality and credibility" due to better plotting and smarter writing (it's clear which one he prefers). Stahl's black-and-white picture presents a lighter, almost screwball take on the Douglas novel with Taylor's Merrick acting more like a petulant schoolboy than a post-collegiate playboy. As his personal assistant puts it, he's "barmy in the crumpet," while Dunne's more down-to-earth turn as Hudson--Phillips in the later film--anticipates her classic performance in Love Affair, but it's hard to argue with Doherty: Sirk's Technicolor sensation is the definitive version.

In their video remembrances, Allison Anders talks about growing up with his work, while Kathryn Bigelow cites him as an influence on her first movie, The Loveless. The set concludes with the theatrical trailer (featuring Wyman as herself), an essay from film critic Geoffrey O'Brien, and an in-depth 1980 interview with the director from the German program From UFA to Hollywood: Douglas Sirk Remembers, in which he discusses Written on the Wind and The Tarnished Angels, both also starring Rock Hudson. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Robert Taylor
  • Directors: Douglas Sirk
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Special Edition
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: January 20, 2009
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001ILTUL0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,664 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Magnificent Obsession (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
The Criterion collection is adding both the 1935 and 1954 versions of Magnificent Obsession to its list of classics getting the deluxe treatment. Thus you are not only getting the Wyman/Hudson version of this film, but also the 1935 Irene Dunne/Robert Taylor version which has never been released either on DVD or VHS. Both were Universal properties, but the last time I saw the 1935 version it was so dark I wasn't sure it could be salvaged to the point we would ever see it on DVD. I was happily wrong.

The center of the story is Robert Merrick ( Hudson in 1954, Robert Taylor in 1935). He is a well-to-do playboy that has a boating accident at the same time that Dr. Hudson has a coronary. There is one piece of life-saving equipment available in the area, and it winds up saving Merrick's life. Hudson's family and the entire community can't help but be a little bit resentful that such a seemingly useless young man, whose accident was due to his own recklessness, has been spared at the expense of the beloved Dr. Hudson. This causes Merrick to begin to reflect on life and as a result he is told by Edward Randolph about Hudson's "magnificent obsession" - doing good with little fanfare and getting paid back many times over. Unfortunately, Merrick doesn't quite understand. He thinks of this process as a vending machine. He puts in a quarter ( a good work), presses a button and then says "gimme". However, Merrick is the indirect cause of a second tragedy that finally does put his life on the right path over a period of years.

In spite of the poor film quality, I think I preferred the 1935 version to the one from the 50's although I loved them both. The 30's version focuses more on Merrick's inner turmoil and transition while the 50's version is more of a melodrama and love story.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Bravo to Criterion for, not only including the beautifully restored 1935 version of this film, but for giving it its own separate DVD! I honestly thought that the Irene Dunn/Robert Taylor version was lost forever, so you can imagine just how thrilled I was to hear that Criterion was coming out with both versions of Magnificent Obsession. To see the original in its former glory was wonderful. The state of the film was left in such a horrible condition, at times it looked like it was being spliced together. The film also alternated between being either too dark, or too light. The sound seemed like it jumped at times as well. I am beside myself that this film was saved, and just in time! Now all they need to do is find the deleted scenes from the dream sequence in Spellbound, and resore those to their former glory! I'd perform cartwheels!
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Format: VHS Tape
While there may be some elements that are slightly unbelievable (the widow doesn't recognize immediately the voice of the man who blinded her and whose carelessness resulted in her husband's death even though she'd met him before? When she finds out, she actually not only forgives him his deception but falls in love with him?) this is nevertheless a fine, romantic, lush production of an equally fine novel. Many boast about Rock Hudson's performance and it is excellent. His transformation from a selfish, spoiled millionaire's son to a caring neurologist who woos and wins Jane Wyman's character is totally believable. But, to me, it is Jane Wyman who steals the show as the afflicted, blinded widow Helen Phillips. She is totally believable as a newly blinded woman who somehow comes to terms with the fact that she probably will never see again. And the supporting cast, especially Otto Kruger as the philosophical artist is also excellent. And, speaking of philosophy, the book on which this movie is based has a definite, important message which comes through loud and clear without hammering us in the head or preaching at the viewer. The message is not lost in translation to the screen although that often happens when a book is made into a movie. These elements, combined with the spectacular color, lush music and beautiful scenery help to make "Magnificent Obsession" a typical, wonderful, old-fashioned 3-hankie "woman's picture." It's nearly 50 years old but it's still a marvelous rainy-day picture that will uplift and delight any woman who views it.
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Format: DVD
Technicolor melodramas don't get much better than the ones Douglas Sirk made: All That Heaven Allows - Criterion Collection, Written on the Wind - Criterion Collection and Imitation Of Life (Two-Movie Special Edition) (Universal Legacy Series). It was Magnificent Obsession, however, that paved the way for those later masterpieces. Sirk's film was based on Lloyd C. Douglas' 1929 novel of the same name - a sudsy romance novel that became a best seller. The book was first adapted onto film in 1935 but the author wasn't too happy with the results. Sirk did not like the source material and hadn't seen the 1935 film and later described his own version as a "combination of kitsch and craziness and trashiness."

The first disc features an audio commentary by film scholar Thomas Doherty. He starts off by talking about how Technicolor was used to lure people back to movie theaters after the rise of television. Naturally, he gives a biographical sketch of Douglas Sirk including his transition from European cinema to Hollywood. Doherty does an excellent job of analyzing the film's style and its themes on this very informative track.

"Tributes to Sirk" features filmmakers and Sirk fans Allison Anders and Kathryn Bigelow talking about their love of his films. Anders shows off her vintage Sirk movie posters and speaks about how her mother introduced her to his films.
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