Welcome one and all to the beginning of Douglas Sirk Week. Now I understand if some of you are thrown off as this week will not revolve around Horror, Science Fiction, Comic Book based films or TV but you must learn to adapt. Douglas Sirk was known for films to exude a certain sense of irony, drama and matters of the heart. His films were battered and deep fried with symbolism with a dash of idealism for the human spirit.
Picture if you will a spoiled rich boy that looks out for nothing but him and his sense of fun. With the morals of a 5 year old having a temper tantrum he has ruined lives, property and businesses with nothing more than signing a check for damages but let’s say he latest shenanigans cause a error too awesome to correct by simply buying someone off and he must be held accountable not by law but by mere conscience. So grab your stethoscope, poke that cadaver with a stick and try to keep it professional. This is Magnificent Obsession.
All spoiler to me is a name…
From the pages from novelist Lloyd C. Douglas (Green Light, The Robe and The Big Fisherman) comes the story of two people intertwined in life possibly by fate. Rich man Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson of Written on the Wind, Giant, The Tarnished Angels, A Farewell to Arms, Pillow Talk and The Last Sunset) is being reckless on a speed boat with a young gal when he wrecks it. Rescue teams are sent to revive him and at the same time the local doctor and esteemed hero, Dr. Wayne Phillips dies without aid due to Merrick’s shenanigans no matter how indirectly.
The good doctor’s widow Helen (Jane Wyman of The Lost Weekend, Johnny Belinda, Stage Fright, Bon Voyage! and How to Commit Marriage) receives phone calls, telegrams and letters exclaiming offers of condolences and offers to pay back loans that the doctor had refused to accept as payment in life. Phllips’ oldest friend, successful artist and amateur philosopher Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger of Dracula’s Daughter, Murder, My Sweet, Saboteur, High Noon, Hit Parade and The Last Command) tries to put things in perspective for Helen. No sooner does our rich heel awake in the hospital he realizes he is getting the stink eye, quite possibly the evil eye as well.
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Baffled at this, he runs out of the hospital finding out that he inadvertently caused the death of a hero. Grief struck he offers the widow some compensation only to find out that he is a schmuck that constantly deals with issues by throwing money at it and is very much lacking in conscience and a soul. Helen runs away from Merrick out her home to be stricken by a car causing her to be blinded. Feeling even worse now Merrick stops being a screw up and dedicates all his studies to the medical practice so that he may one day restore the sight that was so cruelly taken from Helen.
Now I have just a few points on this film if you don’t mind. Hudson’s performance from heel to hero is a long path and in general, excellent work but the story feels a bit too compassionate and burdensome. Having this film being remade Merrick would toss money again but to finding a fully qualified surgeon rather than becoming one himself.
The dynamic between Helen and Merrick is believable but it seems a bit rushed. There is a flurry of emotions and settings that are compelling and the quality of the movie overall in superb. 35 mm Spherical is capturing every frame and alas I cannot seem to find a copy beyond Technicolor. All in all it is a little sappy and tugs on the heart strings but at the end, even the biggest jerk would get a smile from it.