Release Date(s)1960 (January 19, 2016)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
Mark Robson’s From the Terrace (1960) is one of the great American films of its era, a perfectly rendered portrait of a culture transitioning from Eisenhower-era conformity to the schisms of Vietnam, civil rights, and Easy Rider. Superficially, it resembles Robson’s earlier Peyton Place as a glossy melodrama combining slightly salacious material with a classy, “respectable” treatment. But From the Terrace reaches higher and digs deeper than Peyton Place with a scathing analysis of the contradictions and hypocrisies at the heart of the American dream. Paul Newman plays Alfred, a young businessman eager to make a name for himself without standing in the shadow of his hugely successful father; Joanne Woodward is Mary, a gorgeous woman from an equally upper class background who marries Alfred but turns to adultery when his obsession with success keeps him away from home for months at a time. When Alfred falls for Natalie (Ina Balin), the daughter of a business associate, he’s forced to make some difficult choices – knowing all the while that the wrong decisions could destroy his professional life, his personal life, or both. Implicit in the drama is an analysis of the tensions that were about to rip America apart at the center – tensions between the promise of capitalism and its reality, between what we’re supposed to want and what really makes us happy and fulfilled.
The movie’s sociological incisiveness is largely courtesy of novelist John O’Hara, whose book provides the source material for From the Terrace. O’Hara was a brilliant critic of the upper class, and a harsh anthropologist of its behavior – in From the Terrace, he shows an unerring eye and ear for the ways in which the rich destroy themselves and others. The novel clocks in at somewhere around 900 pages, which makes screenwriter Ernest Lehman’s adaptation all the more remarkable: pruning the timeline roughly in half, he nevertheless retains the power and complexity of O’Hara’s themes, which are then elegantly rendered in visual terms by Robson and given further shading by the outstanding performances and Elmer Bernstein’s score, one of his very best. That score is included as an isolated track on Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, which also contains a theatrical trailer and some entertaining newsreel footage promoting young star Ina Balin on the eve of the film’s release. The transfer is beyond reproach, with a broad tonal range that fully captures the variety of Robson’s images – the photography ranges from film noir chiaroscuro to bright, pastel suburban and urban interiors, and all of it is rendered with subtlety and detail here. In keeping with Twilight Time tradition, film historian Julie Kirgo provides essential reading in the form of informative liner notes, which heap deserved praise on O’Hara, Newman, and this fantastic film.
- Jim Hemphill