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A young man returns home after a three year tour of duty in the navy only to find things are somewhat different from when he left. His kid sister has grown into a young woman, the job he thought was waiting for him turns out to have some unique conditions, and perhaps most importantly his former sweetheart has married a wealthy and much older man. Disillusioned, he drifts from job to job while trying hard to avoid the advances of his former girlfriend, who is unhappy in her marriage and longs for something extra. While all he wants to do is make something of his life, his will power will be put to the ultimate test.Written by
Kevin Steinhauer <K.Steinhauer@BoM.GOV.AU>
Economic classes well established that outweigh physical beauty and true love
I have watched this classic and contemporary film at least three (3) times over the past fifty-two (52) years. I will most certainly watch it again when the Criterion Collection eventually come to realize how important this film is to the North American culture of the second half of the last century. I am quite sure the Criterion Collection will eventually release this beautiful contemporary film on an extended Blu Ray format fully restored with extras that will include historical interviews with Director Harvey Hart and many of the key actors in this Peyton Place kind of small town atmosphere.
Michael Parks and his chiseled good looks plays the returning home from over seas navy seaman Bus Riley. Bus displays his own unique moody yet still charming persona that emulated the likes of James Dean and a younger Marlon Brando. Bus Riley's solemn temperament matched wildly and sexually against the 24 year old married vixen Laurel played by Ann-Margret. Director Harvey Hart brings to the screen the warmth and loving charm of the three (3) family members who Bus Riley lives with who are his mother played by Jocelyn Brando (the older sister of Marlon Brando), and his two sisters the younger Gussie, (played so lovingly and filled with innocence by Kim Darby) who is filled with life and yet still empty of any jealousy towards either brother Bus or older sister Paula, played by the attractive Mimsy Farmer.
There are many lonely ladies in this Peyton Place sort of town, one of which happens to be the divorced mother of Judy who who lays around on her couch watching romantic movies, and drinking herself into a state of stupor. Then one day the young and rather naive Bus Riley knocks on her door to sell her one of his new "top secret atomic" vacuum cleaner which he quickly gets her to sign a contract for in exchange for providing her a handsome young shoulder to cry on. But Bus does have a conscience and when he discovers that this lonely lady is Judy's mother who is her mothers sole caregiver and housekeeper and he recognizes Judy as his own sister Gussie's best friend, he quickly finds a way to dissolve the just signed contract and save Judy's drunkard mother from going further into debt.
The film is about young love, old love, personal financial gain, parental disdain, deception, heart break, the sexual revolution, it even touches on homosexuality which was a taboo topic in 1965. The Riley family has its own share of despair as we wonder why Bus's father is not in the picture, nor present in the household. Bus just returning from a three (3) year overseas tour serving in the U.S. Navy appears to have left abruptly after breaking up with his younger seventeen (17) year old virginal girlfriend Laurel, only to discover upon his return home to find out she has married a very wealthy but much older man.
There are many good actors in this film and multiple story lines. I believe that Ann-Margret's and Michael Park's performances were worthy of at least an Academy Award nomination for best actress and best actor respectively. This film moves along seamlessly from the opening scene to the last scene where the Riley's kitchen door closes behind us, the audience. It is a film filled with regrets, but more importantly it is also a film filled with compassion, awakenings, second chances and redemption.
I love this picture and therefore I give Bus Riley's Back In Town a perfect 10/10 rating. I trust the Criterion Collection has this beautifully directed and acted 1965 film on their short list for a new restored release before the end of this quarter century.
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