The Warner Archive January 16, 2018 DVD release of the 1960 Southwestern Gothic drama "Home From the Hill" is a perfect example of the bounty from the the Ted Turner era at Warner prime.
This MGM film is part of the catalog that Turner recognizes as Golden and Silver Age ore, and that he begins making readily available to watch at home. This treasures also remind us that that great films are not limited to the oft-broadcast ones during the prehistoric era of getting a television signal from an antenna on your roof.
Vincent Minnelli directs this movie that wins two National Board of Review, USA awards and that that organization deems to be one of the top 10 films of the year.
"Home" gets its title from an apt literary reference that generally refers to a man returning from a test of his masculinity. As the below shows, the film also has a coming-of-age element.
The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Home" provides a strong sense of the scope and the drama of the film.
The common elements of "Home" and the classic prime-time soap "Dallas" are obvious from the opening moments of the former. Family patriarch/local millionaire Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) does not return from a hunting trip with a shotgun marriage to a hillbilly wife but does follow the Ewing tradition of getting shot during that outing. The lone gunman does so out of revenge for Wade making a loved one of that shooter the latest notch in his bedpost. This shooting and seducing as well as a desire to pass down the family dynasty to son Theron (George Hamilton) makes Wade the J.R. of the Hunnicutt clan.
Hunting companion/underling Raphae (George Peppard) soon comes to the rescue; both the bond between the men that is clear from the start and subsequent developments make the reveal, which the DVD back cover spoils, that Raphae is the illegitimate son of Wade not very surprising. This makes stoic Raphae the Ray Krebbs of the group in that he is the bastard son who has a relatively good job and otherwise is treated well so long as he understands his status.
Seventeen-year-old Theron is the "good son" with some edge Bobby of the group. This ultimate rebel with a righteous cause starts out quiet and well-mannered is this film that largely is his coming-of-age story. His literally being taken on a middle-of-the-night snipe hunt provides a wake-up call that prompts him on his road to manhood.
Wade helps this quest by assigning Raphae to be a big brother to a (then unsuspecting) Theron. This includes shooting lessons that involve the most humorous moment in "Home."
Additional foreshadowing comes in the form of an early reference to an area of quicksand from which no one ever emerges; of course, the primary test of manhood for Theron requires that he enters that forbidden zone.
Matriarch Hannah Hunnicutt (Eleanor Parker of the highly entertaining (reviewed) broads-behind-bars melodrama "Caged") is a combination of Miss Ellie and Sue Ellen. She largely stands by her man throughout his philandering but has limits regarding the embarrassment that she will endure; she also has relatively good emotional stability but has limits regarding that as well.
Girl-next-door Libby Halstead (a.k.a. Pamela Barnes-Ewing) provides the final piece of this puzzle. She catches the eye of Theron, who initially is so shy that he convinces Raphae to do his courting for him with ultimately (largely) predictable results. The father of Libby holding Theron responsible for the sins of the father provides additional drama.
Theron strutting home at 2:00 a.m. with his open shirt revealing his (of course) perfectly tanned chest leaves little doubt regarding the night that Libby fully makes a man out of him.
"Home" remains true both to epicish films of this type and to "Dallas" in having the drama amp up in a manner encompassing every major element of the film in the final 15 minutes. An adulthood of adultery catches up to Wade, Theron resolves his daddy issues, and the role of Raphae is resolved. For her part, Hannah shows that that he is just as tough as all of her "boys."
The DVD extras include the epic-long four-minute theatrical trailer for "Home."
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