Sunday, January 22, 2006

More of those Small Town Values

A Movie Review

Return to Payton Place is the inferior sequel to the 1957 film Payton Place, and while it uses many of the same locations as the first film, it has an entirely different cast. In the movie it is now the 50's, somewhere between 8 to 12 years after the events of the original picture. Allison MacKenzie (Carol Lynley) has just written a book, Samuels Castle, that is a thinly valid re-telling of the events of the first film. Jeff Chandler is Lewis Jackman, the New York publisher who convinces the naive Allison that she should spare no detail in the re-write of her book. Needless to say when the residents of Payton Place get hold of the finished novel they are non-to-pleased about all the old dirt it kicks up. With the town now forced to confront its unfortunate past, we get to see many soap opera like scenes unfold which constitute most of the movie.

This film is not entirely consistent with the first picture, for example in Payton Place Selena Cross was first raped by her step-father during her senior year of high school, in this movie they say she was 13. Also the character of Norman, who was so important in the first film is not seen in this movie, though he is mentioned twice. In Normans place the once minor character of Ted Carter (Brett Halsey), is given a major sub-plot involving his wife (Luciana Paluzzi) and his mother (Mary Astor, whose manipulative performance is the highlight of the film). Gunnar Hellstrom is added to the cast as Nils Larsen, an instructor at the local ski resort (in Massachusetts?), and love interest for Selena (Tuesday Weld).

As the original film and novel were based on author Grace Metalious memories of growing up in a small New Hampshire town (Adam Sandler would later attend the same high school she went to), this film and novel are doubtless based on her experiences in becoming a near over-night success as an author. This gives the film a certain sense of egotism that is a bit off-putting, also it seems overly reliant on following a formula very similar to her first work, both films end in dramatic courtroom/town hall sequences. Not a great film but reasonably good, its got me wanting to see some episodes of the popular 60's television series 'Payton Place'. If I get a chance to see that show on DVD I think I'll take it.


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