One Film, Two Options: ‘The Wild Heart’ And ‘Gone To Earth’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Given the choice between watching a movie the way its directors intended or watching a version that was tampered with by one of the producers, it’s hard to think of a circumstance when the latter would be preferred. Same as they did with The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre, however, Kino Lorber doesn’t force you to decide. Their release of The Wild Heart includes the original movie, Gone to Earth.

Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (who, as Troy Howarth explains on his commentary track for The Wild Heart, shared directing credit, even though Powell was more responsible), Gone to Earth is twenty-eight minutes longer than The Wild Heart, and came out two years earlier, in 1950. The Wild Heart was what David O. Selznick distributed in America. Jennifer Jones was his wife and it was Selznick’s opinion that Powell and Pressburger didn’t feature her enough; using his own money to shoot new scenes (directed by Rouben Mamoulian) and make other changes to Gone to Earth.

While not all of these changes are harmful, they are unwarranted and the ending of The Wild Heart doesn’t compare to the ending of Gone to Earth, which ends on a shock while The Wild Heart provides too much lead-up, so you know what’s coming. Some of Cyril Cusack’s best scenes get cut short in The Wild Heart, and both films underutilize actors like Hugh Griffith and George Cole.

Magic in movies is often a force to be reckoned with, but in Gone to Earth it’s Hazel’s glorification of magic that causes her undoing. Instead of deciding for herself who she should marry, Hazel (Jones) let’s magic dictate who she should love. But it’s not like in a fairy tale, where there are tangible results that only stop working when the rules get broken (Cinderella staying too long at the ball). Magic doesn’t seem to do Hazel any good, yet she associates magic with her mother, who passed away. Hazel’s spells are also wrapped up in her reverence for nature. There’s no greater promise Hazel could make than swearing by Little God’s Mountain, or person she could love than her pet, Foxy.

“Seems the world’s a big spring trap and us in it,” Hazel says to her father, before taking off the next second when “Hark, the Music!” plays. It’s a scene that speaks to who Hazel is as a character, and the sense of foreboding that exists throughout both films. Around the halfway point Hazel marries on of her suitors, which could’ve been a place to end both films, but they keep going, past other possible endpoints, until there’s only one conclusion left.

For all that you can debate which suitor is best for Hazel (Samm Deighan rightly compares the plot to Wuthering Heights in her commentary track for Gone to Earth), in the end John Reddin (David Farrar) is a hunter and Marston (Cusack) is not. This should close the matter (and The Wild Heart has Hazel be more decisive) but Hazel always stays torn in Gone to Earth, denying the existence of an obvious answer and making Powell and Pressburger’s version more exceptional.

The Wild Heart is available now on Blu-ray and DVDfrom Kino Lorber.

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