Return to Peyton Place(Fox Home Entertainment, 2.22.2005)
In order to fully cash in on the epidemic that is Desperate Housewives, Return to Peyton Place makes its DVD debut unnecessarily under the Fox Studio Classics label. It's not as if the film is culturally marginal or without any value whatsoever. It is neither of those things, as the five year-long TV series it spawned can attest. However, it's painfully mediocre, meandering, and sleep-inducing.
Sure, we get lush Cinemascope photography, a decent score, and one or two good performances (particularly from Mary Astor) but, in all likelihood, this DVD was simply made to co-exist with the undoubtedly superior Peyton Place DVD, also recently released under said label. They look good side-by-side on my shelf but, hey, I also have a slight case of OCDVD.
Here we go again, back in our favorite New England town. Only problem is, where the heck is everyone? It seems as though the whole cast has been replaced by generic contract actors, all giving hit-and-miss performances (I'm leaning more on the miss side here). Replacing Diane Varsi, Carole Lynley gives a bland, unrealistic performance as Allison MacKenzie who travels to New York City and falls for her married publisher (the equally unimpressive Jeff Chandler).
He helps release her scandalous novel about Peyton Place and its immoral residents. This leads to discontent from the townsfolk, led by the wonderfully villainous Roberta Carter (Astor) who threatens have Allison's stepfather (the school principle) discharged, unless the distasteful novel is removed from the library. Drama ensues.
There are also several side-stories occurring alongside the main event, such as Ms. Carter's insidious attempts to break up her son's marriage to a European model that she loathes. Also, love is in the air for Selena Cross (Peyton Place rape victim and subsequently acquitted killer) who meets Nils Larsen, ski instructor extraordinaire. Hijinks ensue.
The DVD looks fine on the a/v front. Overall, this is a nice restoration. However, the package claims that there is an English Mono track and a Stereo track but, when I went to the audio setup, there was only English Stereo and Spanish Mono. Bad form. At any rate, the audio is pretty good, the score sounds impressive, and the dialogue is clear.
The extras are pretty thin. At first, it seems like there's a fair amount of content but it only takes about ten minutes to get through everything, not including the commentary. The Movietone News Footage contains two short segments: the promo piece "Publisher Honors Author and Star" and the film's premiere "Return to Peyton Place: A Smash Hit."
There's also a restoration comparison, theatrical trailer, and 4 more trailers for other Studio Classics releases. Lastly, we get a good-intentioned but nevertheless average commentary by author/historian Sylvia Stoddard. She spends the majority of her commentary discussing the actors, locations, source material, ski-lifts (no, seriously), and other issues related to the origins of the story.
If you must, by all means, be my guest. Return to Peyton Place may seem better to others than it did to me (although I rather enjoyed the first) and the DVD presentation is pretty robust for such a humdrum film. If you dig the flick, you certainly can't go wrong with this release. As for Fox Studio Classics, c'mon guys, is this the best you can do? You're better off sticking with John Ford-quality classics. -- Neil Karassik