So successful was Fox's 1957 production of "Peyton Place", that producer Jerry Wald requested author Grace Metalious to write a sequel (which he bought sight unseen) for another movie. RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE was released in 1961, though sadly comes up slightly shorter than it's predecessor.
The story picks up a few years after the events of the first film. Allison MacKenzie (Carol Lynley) earns the scorn of her Peyton Place neighbours when it's revealed her recently-published book, "Samuel's Castle", is nothing less than a thinly-veiled depiction of Selena's (Tuesday Weld) ordeal at the hands of her stepfather, and other local scandals. Scary self-appointed "morality leader" Mrs Carter (Mary Astor) leads the charge for the book to be excluded from the school library, which could also result in the dismissal of Allison's stepfather Mike (Robert Sterling) from his post as principal.
Money was the main reason why Lana Turner never returned to play Constance in the second movie. Fox was beginning to feel the pinch of the expensive "Cleopatra" shoot and simply couldn't afford her increased salary demands. Three-time Academy Award-nominee Eleanor Parker ("Caged!", "Detective Story", "Interrupted Melody") was actually a trade above Lana Turner in terms of career prestige, yet the character of Connie sadly never really goes anywhere in this film.
Wald also wanted to bring back Diane Varsi and Hope Lange to reprise their roles of Allison and Selena, and again was met by resistance. Varsi had quickly tired of Hollywood and left town, breaking her lucrative contract in the process; and Ms Lange told Wald in no uncertain terms that she never wanted to play Selena again. Happily, their replacements (fresh Fox contractees of the time) acquit themselves well; Carol Lynley is an especially-poised and lovely Allison.
Grace Metalious saved all her venom for the character of Mrs Roberta Carter, arguably the nastiest piece of work in all of New England! Mary Astor earned rave reviews for her performance, which turned out to be one of her last big movie roles. Luciana Paluzzi, Brett Halsey, Jeff Chandler and Gunnar Hellström co-star.
Fox brings RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE to DVD with a clutch of worthwhile extras, beginning with an audio commentary hosted by movie historian Sylvia Stoddard. MovieTone news, restoration comparisons, the theatrical trailer, plus sneak peeks at other titles in the Fox Studio Classics range. Recommended.