Sam Fuller’s original script might have been called All That Heaven Should Allow. It’s a noir that stumbled out of a dark alley and into the harsh light of melodrama, Douglas Sirk’s beat. Griff (Cornel Wilde) is a tough parole officer until he’s assigned the curvaceous ex-con Jenny (Patricia Knight), a bleached bombshell whose backstory is a “swill pile.” Griff sees past the swill to the swell beneath. “You’ve got to change your brand of men,” he demands, and goes about rebranding himself. When Griff and Jenny take it on the lam, Sirk takes the film back from Fuller’s brush and makes it his own, complete with the fugitive lovers working the oil fields in a setting made for Rock and Dorothy. Originally titled The Lovers, this eccentric melo-noir rewards time off for bad behavior. —Steve Seid
The film director Douglas Sirk, whose reputation blossomed in the generation after his 1959 retirement from Hollywood filmmaking, was born Hans Detlef Sierck on April 26, 1900, in Hamburg, Germany to a journalist. Both of his parents were Danish, and the future director would make movies in German, Danish and English. His reputation, which was breathed to life by the French nouvelle vague critiques who developed the “auteur” (author) theory of film criticism, casts him one of the cinema’s great ironists. In his American and European films, his characters perceive their lives quite differently than does the movie audience viewing “them” in a theater. Dealing with love, death and societal constraints, his films often depend on melodrama, particularly the high suds soap operas he lensed for producer Ross Hunter in the 1950s: Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), and his last American film, Imitation of Life (1959). (Sirk’s favorite American film was the Western… read more
Unfortunately a bit soft around the edges, considering the talent involved. The story gets off to a strong start, but quickly degenerates into mushy theatrics before a solid final act with some effective suspense scenes - but the film ends on a false note with a tacked-on ending. Allegedly, Sirk was disappointed with the film because Fuller's original screenplay was considerably watered down before production.