DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Desire Under the Elms

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Aug 27, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Desire Under the Elms


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    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1958
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 111 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
    Subtitles: English
    Retail Price: $14.95





    Ephraim Cabot (Burt Ives) is an elderly man who loves his New England farm more than anything that has ever entered his life. He drove two wives to an early death and drove two sons away to his constant abuse over the work he requires done on the farm. His youngest son, Ebon (Anthony Perkins) believes the farm should be his when his father dies because it originally belonged to his mother before being stolen by Ephraim. Ebon lives with the abuse because he loves the land and hopes to own it one day. After leaving for six weeks, Ephraim returns home with a new bride, a 25-year-old Anna (Sophia Loren) who sees the farm as a way to escape her pass. Ebon knows that when his father dies the farm will be left to his new stepmother and the greed and jealousy comes to the surface but soon he begins to fall for Anna and their plans for the future are put on hold due to the old man who simply refuses to die.

    Desire Under the Elms is based on the play by Eugene O’Neill, which I had no prior knowledge of before this movie and if the movie is anything like the play, it’s certainly brave in its themes but in the end it just left a really bad taste in my mouth. The film tries to do a lot of things from telling the ugly side of greed, to a good love story and the ugliness that can come from all of these things but it’s that ugliness that really killed the film for me in its final act, which is so incredibly bad that I was tempted to shut the film off.

    The first act of the film wonders around a bit too much as we get introduced to all the characters who aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. The film spends way too much time telling us how angry Ebon is and after a while it starts to become quite laughable because the melodrama is so thick when less would have been more. The Bible-quoting father also doesn’t do much as he comes off looking like such a fool we can’t help but laugh at him the entire way. The screenplay goes way too thick in the drama that it gives the viewer way too much to laugh at, which isn’t a good thing.

    The second act is a lot more interesting and the film finally starts to come to life as the wife and her new stepson fall in love, which sets the film in a new direction. How the two come together isn’t all that believable but Loren is such a beauty that we overlook this and just go along for the ride until that final act happens, which is so incredibly bleak and ugly that I wanted to jump through the screen and kill all three of the leads. I have no problems with a dark subject matter but there are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed unless the script knows what it’s going to do and there’s a good reason for doing it. To me, the ending just didn’t have any of the class it needed for the thing to work and I suppose the director was trying to put a love stamp on it but I left the film being very angry.

    Sophia Loren is the one thing that keeps the film afloat and I was quite impressed with her acting job here. At the start of the film she’s playing a cold-hearted bitch and she pulls this off remarkably well making the viewer know exactly why the son hates her so much. When the love story kicks in she also comes off very well as a victim and even in the final actor Loren brings some grace to her character. Burt Ives is an actor I’ve always admired very much and he comes off very nice here during the quiet moments where the viewer can somewhat start to care for him. Whenever Ives is screaming his Bible talk, it just doesn’t work. The dancing sequence with Ives is a classic however.

    Anthony Perkins is another favorite of mine and he was a good character actor but unfortunately he brings this film down a few notches. It seems as if Perkins doesn’t know how to play the role because he’s all over the map throughout the film. He comes off looking really bad during all the dramatic scenes when he tries to be serious by speaking in a deeper, slower voice, which just doesn’t work. The music score by Elmer Bernstein is very nice and the Academy Award winning cinematography shows off the farmland very nicely. Desire Under the Elms tries to be a serious film and while I admire the attempt at something different, the end results just left a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t wash away.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture quality here looks pretty good throughout, although there’s some minor issues with the contrast during a few scenes. The brightness isn’t nearly as bad as it was on The Black Orchid disc and thankfully there are only a few scenes where I noticed this. Black levels looks very good throughout with rich, detailed blacks and the whites actually looked white where needed. The grayscale also look well detailed and shadow detail was another plus. There was some softness during a few scenes but this was never too noticeable and I doubt those with smaller displays will notice this.

    AUDIO---The Dolby Digital Mono track has been remastered and sounds quite nice. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout and there were no troubles hearing what is being said during the film. Various sound effects also come off quite smooth and natural without any sorts of hiss or pops. The Elmer Bernstein also sounds very smooth and this is perfectly heard during the opening sequence. A French Mono track is also included with English subtitles.

    EXTRAS---There are no extras to be found.

    OVERALL---Loren makes the film worth at least one viewing but that’s about it. The film features a horrid ending that kills everything that happened before it but if you’re a fan of the film then you’ll be happy with the disc, which is a major improvement over the past couple Paramount titles being released on the same day.


    Release Date: August 31st, 2004
     
  2. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Thanks Michael for another solid review. Even though this title is the one I'm the least interested in (although I still have it on order), I'm really looking forward to this group of old Paramount titles.


    Herb.
     
  3. Michael DenBoer

    Michael DenBoer Auditioning

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    Michael, Paramount seems to be releasing a few of Sophia Loren titles lately Like Desire Under The Sun and The Black Orchid. Do you know if they have any plans to a Sophia Loren box set?
     
  4. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Not that I know of but you might want to ask Scott since he handles Paramount releases. He was just kind enough to let me review these three titles.

    Herb, this too was my least wanted of the bunch but it's still good to have. I believe THE ROSE TATTOO was delayed a few weeks so there's another one to look forward to.
     
  5. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Desire Under the Elms is worth purchasing if for no other reason than the wonderful Elmer Bernstein score.
     
  6. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    I like this film - Sophia is great in it.
    Now Paramount, please release Sophias wonderful comdey IT started in Naples with Clark Gable.
     
  7. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    I haven't heard anything of a Sophia Loren boxed set, but then I only hear about Paramount titles a few months in advance.

    Paramount does have a habit of releasing sort of mini-themes each month. This month, it was Sophia Loren.

    They're doing a bunch of Ken Burns stuff in September.

    October is Scifi, with Deep Impact, Fire in the Sky, Conquest of Space, D.A.R.Y.L, Explorers.

    There are also 10 Jerry Lewis Films coming in October.

    Recently, they've had a spy-oriented month, and a western month, as well.

    -Scott
     
  8. Michael DenBoer

    Michael DenBoer Auditioning

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    Thanks Scott, I was just thinking they might since they eventually packaged all the Audrey Hepburn titles they had into a set.[​IMG]
     
  9. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    btw, the character name is Eben (short for Ebenezer) not Ebon, which is black.
     

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