Peyton Place [1957]

Nominated for nine Academy Awards in 1957, Peyton Place has become synonymous with torrid soap opera. Though the novel by Grace Metalious is even more sensational, the movie provides plenty of tantalizing story turns--secrets, adultery, rape, bitter parents, frustrated teenagers, suicide, and murder. Multiple storylines deftly interweave: Allison MacKenzie (Diane Varsi), an ambitious young girl struggling with the neurotic fears of her mother (Lana Turner, in a career-reviving performance) and the neurotic fears of the boy she loves (Russ Tamblyn), while her best friend Selena Cross (Hope Lange) fights off the brutal advances of her drunken stepfather. The movie had to sanitize the novel's New England town in order to get some of the more unsavory plot turns past the censors; ironically, the glossy "normal" surface makes these events all the more shocking, paving the way for David Lynch's Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. --Bret Fetzer

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