Entertainment Weekly - 01/16/2009
"[A]droitly constructed, with committed performances by the two stars, and gorgeous, shadowy cinematography..." -- Grade: B+
New York Times - 01/19/2008
"MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION was the first of Sirk's big-budget, Technicolor melodramas for Universal, but he was already working with distancing devices -- action reflected in mirrors or hard surfaces; colors so bright that they seem to detach themselves from the physical world...."
Rock Hudson bursts through the screen as reckless playboy Bob Merrick in Douglas Sirk's MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION. He creams across a lake at 150 miles per hour in a brightly painted speedboat. Merrick's haughty indulgence sets off a fantastically spectacular chain of tragic events that will transform him and all of those around him. When the speedboat jaunt ends in an accident, Merrick must be resuscitated using the town's only life-saving mechanism, and as a consequence, leaving the saintly local surgeon, Dr. Philips, to die of a heart attack at his stately villa across the lake. When Merrick learns of his part in the doctor's death, he makes a half-hearted attempt to square things with the devastated widow, Helen (Jane Wyman). However, his careless ham-fisted apologies accidentally cause an accident that leaves Helen completely blind. Under the sure, visionary hand of master melodramatist Sirk, these sprawling, high-pitched coincidences congeal to create a stunning window into the morals and mysteries of the American family and value system. Merrick's trail towards redemption by way of a mysterious brand of Christian philanthropy engenders the "Magnificent Obsession" of the title, as he embarks on a desperate study of medicine in order to cure Helen's blindness and hopefully atone for a life's worth of sins.
Description by Criterion Collection:
Reckless playboy Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson, in his breakthrough role) crashes his speedboat, requiring emergency attention from the town's only resuscitator?at the very moment that beloved local Dr. Phillips has a heart attack and dies waiting for the life-saving device. Thus begins one of Douglas Sirk's most flamboyant master classes in melodrama, a delirious Technicolor mix of the sudsy and the spiritual in which Bob and the doctor's widow, Helen (Jane Wyman), find themselves inextricably linked to one another amid a series of increasingly wild twists, turns, trials, and tribulations. For this release, Criterion also presents John M. Stahl's 1935 film version of the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor.