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Unintentional Diptych #6: ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955) / SOMEONE I TOUCHED (1975)

(Unintentional Diptychs is an ongoing series in which we suggest a double-bill featuring films that might not immediately seem to have a direct kinship. Suggestions are welcome and may be submitted via email—mikenordineATgmail—or Twitter.)

Unintentional Diptych #6:  All That Heaven Allows (1955) & Someone I Touched (1975)

All That Heaven Allows

Call me crazy, but I personally think the most sparkling gems from the early/mid-1970s ABC Movie of the Week series share a direct—albeit blindingly gaudy—lineage with Douglas Sirk’s more artfully executed melodramas from the 1950s. These 1970s gems must have seemed absurdly hokey even back then (I was in my aughts and don’t remember the era well enough to comment on it), but looking back on them now, it’s hard not to view them as Naked Gun-style parodies of themselves. Case in point, the Cloris Leachman vehicle Someone I Touched (and by ‘vehicle’ I mean that she doesn’t just star in this thing, she sings the theme song.)

Back in 1975, syphilis was wreaking havoc on middle class America the same way AIDS ravaged the homosexual community in the 1980s. The 49-year-old Leachman plays Laura Hyatt, a loving and devoted wife who is surprised and excited to discover she’s pregnant once again! Unfortunately, in a moment of weakness—come on, we’re all adults here, these things happen, they just do, okay?—her husband Sam (James Olson) had an unprotected sex fling with the local checkout girl. As the film opens, that checkout girl is just trying to kick it on the beach and play some volleyball with her friends when she’s tracked down by a mustached man who is some sort of “syphilis detective.” He informs her that she’s caught the bug. This revelation is bad enough news for the already guilt-ridden Sam, but when it’s revealed that syphilis leads to babies with no arms at best and god-knows-what at worst, he’s forced to come clean to the shattered Laura. But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, Laura shares her own surprise to flip the script on her husband and, by extension, us (unless, like me, you saw this one coming from miles away).

Someone I Touched is made of cubic zirconia, while All The Heaven Allows is an actual diamond. So much so that I’m not going to spoil it with words. I do suggest you watch the Sirk film first. Then, take a break, prepare yourself, and discover the wide-collared majesty of Someone I Touched.

***Stream ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS and SOMEONE I TOUCHED at Netflix Right Now.***

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully was born and raised in Maryland and now lives on Tennis Court in Brooklyn. His most recent narrative feature, Septien, world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects. In addition to directing Cocaine Angel (2006) and Silver Jew (2007), he is also a proud alumni of Filmmaker Magazine's annual "25 New Faces of Independent Film" club (2006). Visit his indieWIRE blog Boredom at its Boredest——for more sporadic personal updates.

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