Magnificent Obsession (1954)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Medical Drama, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Aug 4, 1954 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 107 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Magnificent Obsession is arguably director Douglas Sirk's masterpiece, even though there are many who find it campy or ridiculous. Indeed, the plot of Obsession is ridiculous (just as it was in its original version), something of which Sirk himself was aware. But the screenplay and direction make an asset of this fact, accepting it at face value and saying, "So it's ridiculous? It's unreal and artificial? So what? Why does a film have to be realistic rather than fantastic?" Sirk and his screenwriters create their own cinematic reality, and it at times is in stark contrast to our own, so much so that it inspires laughter. But it also inspires devotion; Sirk's dedication and commitment to creating this world are so total that one can't help but be drawn in. Even those who do manage to resist Obsession's pull are likely to be impressed by Sirk's visual skill. The film drips with rich Technicolor hues and revels in glorious straight-lined architecture broken up with surprising skewed interruptions. Russell Metty's camerawork is evocative, often amazing, utilizing Sirk's obsession with mirrors like never before. The cast is also a big plus, with Rock Hudson turning in a more than respectable performance, Jane Wyman turning in an exceptional one, and fine support from Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Rush, and in a role that is something of a Sirk stand-in, Otto Kruger. Taken on its own terms, the philosophy espoused in the screenplay is a bit over the top; however, read as a creed about the obsession that drives the artistic creative force (and has artists such as film directors playing a kind of god themselves), it becomes rather fascinating. Magnificent Obsession is that rare film that inspires a kind of obsession in many viewers itself.