Blu-ray Review: All I Desire | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, October 25th, 2020  

All I Desire

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Aug 18, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Naomi Murdoch (Barbara Stanwyck) is a bottom-of-the-bill burlesque performer, humiliating herself on stage night after night and barely making ends meet. She receives a letter from her daughter via forward service, pleading with her to come home and see her star in her senior play. Naomi abandoned her family in small-town Wisconsin ten years earlier, at the start of the 20th Century, for a life on the stage. She returns home, having missed them all dearly, which gets the gossipy locals talking. As she works to earn back the trust of her children and re-kindle a romantic spark with her ex-husband (Richard Carlson), the hardware store owner with whom she had an affair—and was the real reason she left town—comes along with a desire to pick up right where they left off.  

An early melodrama from the genre’s master, Douglas Sirk—who’d direct Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, and Written on the Wind over the next three years—the black-and-white All I Desire will appeal to fans of those classics, although it doesn’t quite hit the same high marks (or, obviously, Techicolor beauty.) The storyline is delightfully soapy if mostly low-stakes, mostly deriving from worry over what the neighbors might think if they knew what happened behind closed doors. Barbara Stanwyck’s performance makes her character more feel well-rounded than had another actress taken the role; her disgraced mother shows some small awareness that it’s all bullshit, but her family’s given her little choice but to go through the motions of it all. The turn of events that bring the movie to a close, however, are laughably over-the-top and out-of-nowhere compared to the low-stakes drama that came before it.

While enjoyable, it’s easy to understand why history has relegated this particular feature to a lower run of Sirk’s melodramatic ladder. From a visual standpoint, there are some hints at the brilliance which would soon come: when Naomi receives the letter from the adoring daughter who idolizes her, it’s read to her by a fellow vaudevillian as Naomi is framed in her dressing room mirror, only a distant reflection. Later, when drama students beg the “famous” actress to read a bit of poetry, she dims the light – framing, in silhouette, the family’s two lovelorn housekeepers, who obviously see a bit of their own relationship in the poem. These examples are few and far between, but they’re there, and they can be fun to watch for.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray edition of the movie has a high-quality transfer and an informative commentary from Imogen Sara Smith, who can always be counted on to provide historical context. 



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