Movies definitely don’t get made like they used to and Home from the Hill is a superb example. This film exemplifies American cinema. Its a Southern melodrama of epic caliber set in East Texas that is perhaps Robert Mitchum and Vincent Minnelli’s most underrated film of their careers. If you’ve ever read (or seen the movie) East of Eden or Gone with the Wind, then you’ll be quite familiar with what to expect here.

Home from the Hill stars Robert Mitchum as a philandering patriarch who pretty much owns and runs a small Texas town. His wife (Eleanor Parker) has raised their son (a very young George Hamilton) as a momma’s boy, a soft kid who’s been sheltered from his parents’ unhappy marriage and his father’s tomcat ways. Then we have the opposite of Hamilton, a masculine farmhand played by George Peppard. The farmhand has a special bond with Mitchum that gets further explored later in the film. To complicate everything, there is also a girl who ends up loving both men.

With its Cinemascope vistas, Home from the Hill is the kind of movie that needs to be seen on the giant screen in either an old movie palace or at the drive-in. Its sweeping, melodramatic, epic, and as American as apple pie. This film was based on a novel by William Humphrey and it was one in a line of films set in the South such as A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Long Hot Summer. There are no subtleties in this film. For example, Robert Mitchum, as the patriarch, is a burly Texan man who likes to hunt and screw women. His study is decked out in bold red, animal heads, and rifles.

If for no other reason, Home from the Hill deserves to be seen for Robert Mitchum’s performance alone. Although a bastard of a husband, you still can’t help but feel for him. He knows he’s a bad husband, but he tries hard to better himself and get his family back on track. Mitchum delivers his lines like an old pro, like he’s known this character personally all his life. He gives some damn great lines that will make you rewind and watch over again. Mitchum has a laid back coolness about him, which he never allows to be diminished. I think this may also be the best role I have yet seen from the actor and that says a lot given the many films he made in his career.

George Peppard (‘Hannibal’ from The A-Team TV series) also stars here as the farmhand. You can tell this guy was probably being groomed by the studio system to be its next big star. He had the looks, the charm, and the acting skills to be one as well (the next year he landed his biggest film role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Being the manly dude that he is, his character is all cool and collected on the outside, but he harbors a secret that almost consumes him. The film does a great job in slowly peeling back the layers of this character and taking the audience on a journey to learn who he really is.

It was a surprise seeing George Hamilton being so young in this movie. I’ve been so used to seeing him in 80s films and TV shows that its hard to imagine him being this young. Hamilton has never been known for his acting chops and this film is no exception. He overacts his lines and overplays his character’s emotions. However, despite all this, he still manages to convince you. After all, he’s supposed to be a teenager and teenagers are known for their adolescent melodramas so his level of acting is fitting for his character’s age.

Home from the Hill is a film treasure that for anyone who appreciates good cinema, this is a must-see movie. I’ve lamented the fact that today’s studio system has devolved into churning out endless remakes and sequels so as to ensure it remains profitable. Consequently, we have stopped making movies that simply tell a great and original story and instead have insured ourselves from taking too large of a risk by making ‘safe’ films. Home from the Hill is also a product of the studio system, but unlike today’s system, the studio system of the 50s and 60s was one that defined itself by the quality of its output, not by its profitability.

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