Entertainment » Movies

The Wild Heart / Gone to Earth

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 25, 2019
The Wild Heart / Gone to Earth

Directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (a.k.a. "The Archers") are best known for their classic films such as "Black Narcissus," "A Matter of Life and Death," "The Red Shoes," and "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp."

The films that they worked on together in the 1950s may not be as well-regarded, but "Gone to Earth" is an underrated gem of that period. Their affinity for a vibrant Technicolor visual palette and fantasy realism didn't succeed in veering the film from its disastrous reception upon initial release. This didn't stop American producer David O. Selznick from cutting his own version of "Gone to Earth" for the U.S. titled "The Wild Heart," which cut about a third of the running time out to focus more on the central character and her emotional awakening.

Hazel Woodus (Jennifer Jones) is a beautiful, superstitious woman living in the Shropshire countryside in 1897. Instead of connecting with other people in the community, she finds solace in nature and hanging out with her pet fox, Foxy. Soon, she's torn between the desire of Jack Reddin (David Farrar), a rich and powerful man dead set on declaring Hazel as his, and a meek clergyman named Edward Marston (Cyril Cusack). One man represents everything she's against and the other loves her for her more spiritual fancies, despite being tied down by his own spirituality.

This is broad-strokes melodrama at its finest. As much as Powell and Pressburger are interested in Hazel's plight, there are plenty of sequences for viewers to luxuriate in. In one particular scene, we watch as Hazel wanders about in the wilderness. The allusions to Snow White are aplenty, but that's because the famous filmmakers love to depict a world in which fairy tale and reality can collide to make something intoxicating. Hazel's bold emotions set to sweeping backdrops and settings never feel overwrought because as much of The Archers' best films, they're steeped in genuine human emotion.

After the film's release, David O. Selznick cited that the directors didn't shoot the script, brought them to court, and then lost. He had the U.S. release rights, so he hired Rouben Mamoulian to remove about 30 minutes of the film and had a voiceover narration that made Hazel's internal struggle with love even clearer. Of course, that version is the lesser of the two and was a big mistake on Selznick's part, although the man was never that much of a hack. He clearly misunderstood Powell and Pressburger's approach to filmmaking.

As for the audio and video presentation, this is the best "Gone to Earth" has looked with any home video release. Plus, both cuts of the film are available on the Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, so you can see the things changed in between the two versions. Pick up this Blu-ray immediately if you're a fan of the famous filmmakers. Other special features include:

• Audio Commentary by Film Historian Samm Deighan
• Audio Commentary by Film Historian Troy Howarth
• Jennifer Jones Trailers

"Gone to Earth" / "The Wild Heart"
Kino Lorber Blu-ray

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