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From The Terrace

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    C.D. Workman
    Senior Member

  • From The Terrace



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: January 19, 2016
    Directed by: Mark Robson
    Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Myrna Loy, Ina Balin, Leon Ames, Barbara Eden, Patrick O'Neal, Felix Aylmer
    Year: 1960
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Alfred Eaton (Paul Newman) returns home from World War II to find that his abusive father (Leon Ames) has driven his mother (Myrna Loy) to alcoholism and unfaithfulness. Mr. Eaton, who has never recovered from the death of his elder son, wants his surviving son to take over the family business, but Alfred wants nothing to do with it. Instead, he meets and falls in love with the wealthy Mary St. John (Joanne Woodward), who is engaged to Dr. Jim Roper (Patrick O'Neal). Against her parents' wishes, Mary comes to prefer bad-boy Alfred, but Mr. and Mrs. St. John view the Eatons as nouveau riche, white trash made good who can never hope to join the upper crust. When old man Eaton dies and Alfred inherits his business, however, Mr. St. John relents and approves of the marriage between his daughter and her new beau. Unfortunately, when Alfred starts his own airplane manufacturing company, he and Mary begin to argue over his frequent and lengthy departures, a situation that grows worse after Alfred saves the grandson of a wealthy financier (Felix Aylmer). As he and Mary move further apart, she turns to her former fiancé while he turns to the daughter of a mine owner.

    John O'Hara was one of America's most successful novelists in the 1940s and '50s, and among his many bestselling works was From the Terrace, a 900-page work of soap operatic fiction spanning several generations and over 50 years. Adapted to the big screen, however, it was shorn of innumerable subplots and characters to focus on the relationship between Alfred and Mary. Hot off the success of Peyton Place, both 20th Century Fox and producer/director Mark Robson (The Seventh Victim, 1943; The Bridges at Toko-Ri, 1955) were looking for another property with the same sort of mass appeal; they found it in From the Terrace, though the film adaptation failed to leave much of a mark at the box office. The biggest problem was that, in adapting it to the big screen, scenarist Ernest Lehman cut a little too much, often relying on spoken exposition rather than action to fill in the gaps. Even worse, some gaps don't get filled at all, resulting in awkward plot holes for those not familiar with O'Hara's original work. (And if there's one thing that's inexcusable in a film this long, it's gaps in the story!)

    Not all is lost, however. While From the Terrace has nowhere near the power of its predecessor (the aforementioned Peyton Place, which proved a pop cinema sensation), it's still entertaining, though not always for the right reasons. It begins with one of the funniest and least believable performances in film history: Myrna Loy's drunken Martha Eaton, which belongs more in a local theater-troupe comedy than on the big screen. Thankfully, her performance is almost immediately balanced out by Newman's, which is a model of taste and restraint in comparison. And as happened so often when they starred opposite each other, Newman and Woodward have real chemistry, making the collapse of their on-screen marriage all the more powerful and disturbing. Yet, it's that collapse that provides the film with its first real moments of frisson. The script goes to great lengths to paint Mary has a soulless harridan, one who too quickly loses interest in her husband and returns to her former lover. What it doesn't seem interested in doing is blaming any of the damage on Alfred's issues: he frequently deserts his wife for months at a time, rarely shows her any affection, and is too controlling. In other words, the apple didn't fall far from the tree, but while we were expected to sympathize with the elder Mrs. Eaton, we're expected to condemn the younger Mrs. Eaton, a clearly sexist point of view that was no more appropriate then than it is now.

    As with so many films of the period, it would be easy to dissect From the Terrace's moral failings by approaching it with a modern sense of right and wrong. In fact, it's difficult to approach the film in any other way. Regardless, it certainly can't be called boring, and despite its rather lengthy running time, it moves like wildfire and is very nearly as devastating.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    From the Terrace hits Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time via an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. The 50GB disc features the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with a glorious transfer provided by Fox. Colors are gorgeous, providing a rich palette all the better to show off Newman's expressive and beautiful blue eyes. The image compares favorably to Fox's The Best of Everything (1959; also released on Blu by Twilight Time), offering an unobstructed view into the mid-century modern aesthetic of the period. There are no serious issues with crush, and grain mostly looks organic (though it appears a little harsh in a couple of the nighttime or darker sequences). Detail is never less than revelatory, from a canopy of brown leaves littering a forest floor, to the fine grain of '50s fashions draping the cast, to every line and wrinkle of the cast members' faces. There's virtually no speckling, dirt, or debris, nor is there any artifacting. On the whole, the image is as striking as it is pristine, showcasing Leo Tovar's sumptuous cinematography.

    Both the primary English audio track and the secondary track featuring the isolated score (by no less than Elmer Berstein) are provided in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and neither suffers from any age-related or mastering defects. Dialogue is clear, crisp, and clean, and the score is well supported. There are no mixing issues, which means that sound levels don't need to be adjusted up or down depending on whether dialogue or the score is prominent. Twilight Time has also provided English-language subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired.

    Extras are a bit sparse, but considering this isn't one of Fox's most important catalog titles, that's to be expected. On the upside, Twilight Time has included the customary liner notes from film historian Julie Kirgo, who provides a spirited defense of O'Hara and an apt description of Woodward's Mary St. John (“a staggeringly beautiful bitch goddess”), in an accompanying 8-page booklet.

    Rounding out the extras is a Fox Movietone Newsreel (running less than a minute in length) promoting the film's original theatrical release and the original theatrical trailer (3:12), both in standard definition.

    The Final Word:

    From the Terrace is a wildly entertaining soap opera, a beautifully weird mix of camp trash and high art. Performances range from superb (Newman and Woodward) to laughably bad (Loy). Yet, despite countless plot holes and a running time just shy of two and a half hours, the film moves at a breakneck speed. There are no dull moments, and Twilight Time's presentation is fantastic, thanks to a stellar visual transfer and solid sound.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Volume 2 of that series (covering the 1930s) is currently available from Midnight Marquee Press, Inc.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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