Saturday, February 3, 2007

HOME FROM THE HILL (MGM 1960) Warner Home Video

Vincente Minnelli’s Home From The Hill (1960) is a brooding, often intense and compelling melodrama with inspired bits of casting. Robert Mitchum headlines as Capt. Wade Hunnicutt, wealthy businessman and benevolent patriarch to the small town in which his family resides. But all is not idyllic on the Hunnicutt estate.

Thanks to Wade’s well known philandering, his wife, Hannah (Eleanor Parker) is a remote, aloof and wounded beauty who’s one consolation is that she is the sole influence on their son, Theron’s (George Hamilton) upbringing. But that’s about to change. After having been made a fool by his father’s hunting buddies, Theron decides to align himself with his father’s interests and ‘become a man.’

Though Theron takes to his new found manhood quite easily, becoming his father’s pride by bagging a wild boar and wooing the most attractive young Miss in town, Elizabeth Halstead (Luana Patten), Theron’s world is shattered when he learns that Raphael ‘Rafe’ Copley (George Peppard) is his father’s bastard. Determined to make amends for Wade’s indiscretions, Theron leaves Elizabeth, moves in with Rafe and gets a job at the local cotton mill. Pregnant with Theron’s child, but determined to never let him know the truth, Elizabeth marries Rafe instead – a union that isolates Theron from all he loved.

When it is suggested to Mr. Albert Halstead (Everett Sloane) that his daughter’s illegitimate child has been fathered by Wade, Albert murders Wade in his study. Learning of the assassination, Rafe tries to stop Theron from hunting down Elizabeth’s father in the woods but he is too late. Theron kills Mr. Halstead in self defense. The brothers reconcile their differences and Theron leaves town for an uncertain future.

Coming as it did on the heals of Minnelli’s greatest artistic achievement – Gigi (1958), Home From the Hill is a more restrained exercise in film making. Minnelli tells his tale in carefully paced vignettes that are in and of themselves marvelously staged and quite compelling. Never does this sprawling family saga seem tired or thoughtless. As an audience, we are given quite a lot to digest but never in a way that entirely fill us up. Overshadowed by Minnelli’s other great masterworks, Home From the Hill is an engrossing psychological melodrama elevated to an exalted arena where more than ‘the deer and the antelopes play.’ It is recommended viewing and as one of the last great performances given by Mitchum in a starring role.

The DVD from Warner Home Video is also quite impressive. Shot in Cinemascope and Metrocolor, the anamorphically enhanced image exhibits a palette of refined and fully saturated – if somewhat dated – colors. Blacks are solid and deep. Whites are generally clean. Flesh tones are somewhat less vibrant than expected, but overall the fidelity will not disappoint. A minor hint of edge enhancement is detected in the brick work of the Hunnicutt home, but nothing that will terribly distract. Fine details are fully realized throughout. Age related artifacts are kept to a bare minimum. The audio is a 5.1 effort that captures the robustness of the original mag-track stereo master. Sadly, there are NO extras! Highly recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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