Douglas Sirk – All That Heaven Allows [+commentary] (1955)

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Douglas Sirk once said: “This is the dialectic—there is a very short distance between high art and trash, and trash that contains an element of craziness is by this very quality nearer to art.” When All That Heaven Allows was released by Universal Pictures in 1955, it was just another critically unnoticed Hollywood genre product, designed to appeal to the trashy “women’s weepie” audience. Now, in retrospect, it is considered to be closer to the art side of Sirk’s dialectic, and one of his key films. But this is part of a wider process of critical reevaluation in which his entire body of work has been rediscovered and reappraised by successive generations of filmmakers and historians. Continue reading

Douglas Sirk – Zu neuen Ufern AKA To New Shores (1937)

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“The film is a melodrama in the high Sirk style (Leander is a cabaret singer in 1840s London who takes the rap when her lover passes a bad check and gets deported to the penal compound that was then Australia), but with a great deal of music, performed by Leander in the wrenchingly emotional style that has made her as much of an icon to German gays as Garland is to the US community.” Continue reading

Douglas Sirk – Hitler’s Madman (1943)

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Hitler’s Madman is based on an all-too-real wartime atrocity. John Carradine portrays Heydrich, the vicious SS officer put in charge of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Heydrich is killed by the Czech underground, prompting the Nazis to plan a horrible retaliation. The Gestapo selects the Czech village of Lidice for annihilation: They kill all the male villagers, throw the women and children into concentration camps, and torch Lidice into nonexistence. The victims of Nazi tyranny become martyrs to the underground cause, ending the film on a note of triumph. Based on a narrative poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Hitler’s Madman was produced by the “poverty row” PRC studio, but was sold to MGM and given a class-A presentation at choice theatres throughout the U.S. Continue reading