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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Soap Opera > Peyton Place (1957/Fox DVD)

Peyton Place (1957/Fox DVD)

Picture: B+ Sound: B- Extras: B Film: A-

PLEASE NOTE: This film has been issued in a limited edition Blu-ray with upgraded HD transfer and 5.1 lossless sound. This review was originally posted early 2004.

The Fox Studios in the 1950 flourished with its grandiose films that were awesome large scale production, many of which were shot in CinemaScope featuring some of the biggest names in all of. The films were lengthy, but noteworthy. Most of the films were Oscar nominees if not winners and the epics of this era, while short-lived, are still sought after years later. DVD has made this all the better!

That takes us to one of the more recent entries to DVD from Fox, which is 1957's Peyton Place, which starred Lana Turner and Lee Philips. Everything seems perfect in a small New Hampshire town, but things go awry despite the conservative nature of the parents in the town. Scandals begin to occur and before too long a murder and trial all become the focus of what would never have been thought of before. The film is based on Grace Metalious' best-selling novel, and the film would receive 9 total Oscar nominations.

Looking back after all these years on this film, we see how it fits into the overall scheme of the 1950s, which essential echoed the decade prior. Many of those sweeping melodramas dealt with the ideas and morals of a small town, which would be compromised from an outside force. Sometimes it would not always be an outside force, but a quick observation locates the attempt here to demonstrate what its like to have conformity attacked. Outsiders are evil, says the film. Even in the Science Fiction vein, movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) likewise showed a similar event.

Peyton Place is staggeringly shot by cinematographer William C. Mellor, who provided amazing work on one of the finest films, which would be George Steven's Giant (1956). He would also be responsible for The Diary of Anne Frank (a Fox production from 1959 and a DVD reviewed on this site). This film runs a full 156 minutes, but is never dull or slow. The pacing escalates as more of the story is revealed throughout.

Mellor's camerawork has been restored for this DVD and presented anamorphically in its original 2.35 X 1 CinemaScope aspect ratio with DeLuxe color, which demonstrates the beauty of CinemaScope quiet well. Movies today are not framed in the same way as this because they are trying to be too TV safe. Notice in certain scenes how characters carefully hit their marks on the very edges of the screen; while more important characters at the moment are framed closer to the camera, those that are side characters are thrown to the outer stretches of the frame. This also echoes the ideals that are laced within the films context, which is about social standing and that 'outsiders' to the key points are kept to the outer edges of the frame. Those with importance are isolated in a different light or angle. Even their dialogue is subversive at first viewing, but over time becomes revelatory.

The audio is a feasible, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, which works for the material quite well. The other audio track is the commentary by Terry Moore, who plays Betty Anderson in the film as well as Russ Tamblyn, who played Norman Page. While it would have been nice to have another commentary track by a historian or film expert, these two do a good job of highlighting the production from an internal point of view. Those more interested in the other aspects of the production will enjoy the episode of AMC Backstory: Peyton Place. There is also a selection that takes excerpts from the Photoplay Magazine Awards, which shows some of the recognition this film received upon its release.

Peyton Place is a film that gets better with age, despite making a sequel called Return to Peyton Place; the film has an established reputation with little fault. Sometimes it's better to look at a film for its entire context, which would take many years later. Likewise with some of Douglas Sirk's films during the '50s and '60s like Written on the Wind, All that Heaven Allows, and Imitation of Life, the total impact of these films and their comments on social problems and issues was not recognized for it's brilliance until many years passed. This ranks as one of the Fox's better catalog from that period with a DVD worth checking into.

For more on the new limitred edition Blu-ray of Peyton Place, try this link...


- Nate Goss


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