Sunshine(1973) [Signature Release]-Twilight Time Blu Ray .Color .124 mins. Region Free.
Back in the 1970s, made for T.V. movies were big ratings getters.
Thanks to THE HOMECOMING: A CHRISTMAS STORY (WB/CBS ; December 1971)America was introduced to The Waltons , who soon garnered their own tv series. BRIAN’S SONG (ABC,1971)made a star out of James Caan and an earworm of a title theme that you couldn’t escape https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w26pW2Uz2-Y . DUEL (Universal/ABC,1971). introduced the majority of Americans to a newcomer named STEVEN SPIELBERG.
Into this popular creative mix came SUNSHINE (Universal/CBS,1973). The inspired by a true story tear jerker was directed by Joseph Sargent (many popular episodes of STAR TREK ,Paramount /Desilu/NBC,1966-1969;as well as the theatrical movie COLOSSUS:THE FORBIN PROJECT (Universal,1970)which ironically BEGAN as a T.V. film ) with skill, finesse ,and a light touch which never made the story heavy handed nor pushed the tears as many other post LOVE STORY (Paramount,1970)films did. The emotions were natural and the reactions from the audiences were thus even more powerful(not that it affected me. No I’m not crying . The air in here is just dry.).
Airing on CBS, it became at the time the most watched TV film in history.
Making it more noteworthy was that the soundtrack was written by balladeer John Denver. “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, from which the film takes its title, was John Denver’s first number one hit (it went unnoticed on the album “Poems Prayers & Promises” in 1971, but became a hit single in 1973).
The film had a sequel in 1977, A SUNSHINE CHRISTMAS (Universal, NBC) that had less of an impact, as well as a short lived tv series in 1975, so it is odd that with all of the films that get pretty consistent exposure on revival television channels that SUNSHINE has not been aired .
People have fond memories of the film and bootlegs have been very popular.
Now, Redwind Productions, who prior to this released the documentary TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN’s JOURNEY (2010,about actress Nancy Kwan) and the Blu Ray release/restoration of HOLIDAY IN SPAIN /SCENT OF MYSTERY, now have gone all out to make this forgotten gem look even better than it did when first broadcast. Twilight Time is handling the Blu Ray release.
Jacquelyn M. ‘Lyn” Helton
The original film elements were used and given a 4K DPX scan (1080p Hi Definition),and restored the film’s original aspect ratios (1.33.1). The mono sound has also been cleaned up with a 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix. No multi-channel mixes, but none needed for this human tale, and the sound is hiss free, while the John Denver numbers are quite easy to listen to. To make it easier to find favorite bits of dialogue or music, one of the features on this Blu Ray is special chapter stops to go right to your favorite bits.
There are also optional English SDH subtitles, that are quite easy to read and follow the action (that is, if you can read them through teary eyes. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Shut up.).
The result is a beautiful looking print that you can watch with your entire family, either to revisit it with those who experienced it, or watch with your younger family members.
Did I mention to keep tissues nearby (not for me, for you, I am not crying. It’s my allergies.)?
SUNSHINE was based upon the true life story of Jacquelyn M. ‘Lyn” Helton, who, at 18, after giving birth to her daughter Jennifer, was discovered to have bone cancer. She began to leave journals and audio tapes for her baby and her husband, Tom, with the goal of reminding them of how important they were, as well as inspiring people dealing with major illnesses.
Someone stole her tape recorder in 1971, which outraged people and after national coverage, she was gifted with a new recording device.
She died November 7,1971, with her story carried by national press.
Lawrence Schiller acquired the rights to her story, and thus two years and two days later (November 9,1973) her story was aired as SUNSHINE.
Names were changed for the tv story (opening credits say that it was “suggested by” Helton’s life) but it seems to follow the sad though inspiring tale (no I’m not crying. I think I have a cold starting. Stop it.).
Christina Raines , in her film debut, plays Kate Hayden. Kate is a young pregnant divorcee who falls in love with struggling musician Sam (Cliff DeYoung). Sam loves Kate so much that when the baby Jill is born, they both accept it as their own child. Kate finds out she has bone cancer, and the aggressive chemo she gets leaves her basically unable to go about her daily activities.
Frustrated, she decides she would rather live a short life as a functioning mother and wife than continue to be what she perceives as a burden. Kate continues to keep in touch with medical researchers as she begins to document her feelings and illnesses as she fights the terrible disease (I’m not crying. I think my eyes are tired. Shut up).
Someone steals her tape recorder, depressing her about the loss.
However, her story gets national attention, and her story inspires many to send gifts, including a new machine so she can continue journaling until…
(sniff… what? No! You are .Shut up.)
The film, while making the characters likeable, does not make them dull saints, and it deals with the stress of being the patient as well as its effect on those around them.
Ms. Raines has since retired from acting, but she now is a nurse who works with patients undergoing kidney dialysis. One wonders how much her role inspired her decision on this life choice. Before she stopped performing, she had a good career, appearing in films like THE SENTINEL (Universal,1977) and THE DUELLISTS(Paramount,1977).
Cliff DeYoung began as a musician who had performed with the likes of The Doors before became an actor, appearing in the original 1969 Broadway production of HAIR. After four years in NYC, he returned to California , landing his role in SUNSHINE. He continues to be an active actor.
Also in the film are Meg Foster, Brenda Vaccaro, and Billy Mumy.
The screenplay was by Carol Sobieski, who also wrote the adaptations for ANNIE (Columbia ,1982) and FRIED GREEN TOMATOES(Universal,1991), the latter earning a posthumous Oscar nomination for the writer.
For the John Denver fans,
songs in the film are
“My Sweet Lady”, “Day Dreams” “Goodbye Again”, “Poems, Prayers & Promises”, all with words and music by Denver alone, and “Sunshine On My Shoulders”, ’Take Me Home, Country Roads, and ‘Winter” which are Denver in collaboration with others. ‘Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Gene MacLellan is also featured.
The film seems to have gotten some sort of theatrical release, though I could only find a movie poster for this.
As an extra on the disc, however, there is also an original theatrical trailer.
Another bonus is a small booklet that really adds nothing though it has some great photos of the film as well as an overseas and American poster.
Recommended for those who enjoy a superior family drama, and don’t mind a few tears (not that I’m crying, mind you. I just need to go wipe my eyes. I’ll be fine).
Kudos to Redwind/Twilight Time for their effort to bring this well-loved story back to an appreciative audience who remember it fondly as well as a new group of viewers.
(warning tissues NOT included).
Kevin G. Shinnick