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Mommie Dearest (SE)
DVD disk
06.20.2006 By: Jason Coleman
Mommie Dearest (SE) order
Director:
Frank Perry

Actors:
Faye Dunaway
Steve Forrest
Diana Scarwid

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Based on the book by Christina Crawford (Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter), this is a movie version of the turbulent life of legendary film actress Joan Crawford. The ups and downs, the cut rose bushes and evil wire hangers - it’s a look at the life and death of a Hollywood icon.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Strange as it is, over the years, MOMMIE DEAREST has developed a very heavy cult following, especially in the gay community. With her huge penciled in eyebrows and almost man like stance and features, the late Joan Crawford is seen by many as a staple of the drag queen, before it even had a name. And for that, this film has been revered by legions of fans, considered the bible for power hungry divas desperately trying to find their place in the world. For me, MOMMIE DEAREST was always a sad film about just how sick and twisted one can become if everything in life is handed to them on a silver platter – and even more so when it’s taken away. If all the terrible incidents in the film actually happened (and most even in the gay community agree as much), it’s not a film to be admired, but a tale of caution. (Reminds me of those idiots who worship Pacino in SCARFACE, trying to emulate his rise to power, not realizing it’s a film about self destruction!) But as a film, MOMMIE DEAREST is a mixed bag of tricks. Are we supposed to feel for Joan or Christina or both of them? Not following one perspective has a definite negative effect on the film and doesn’t allow it to realize its true potential. Plus the heavy handed and campy (and I’m sure it wasn’t intentional) direction by the late Perry doesn’t do wonders for the films impact.

The performances however, surrounded by a dose of cheese or not, are quite extraordinary indeed. Dunaway, who is a complete fool for distancing herself from this work, is possessed with the spirit of Crawford and the overall performance is truly inspired. We can forgive those moments of over-the-top unbelievability, because of the solid work she brings out as well. Scarwid, who is burned in my brain from this film, is young and raw, giving such a compelling take on the material that it’s a shame she never got the bigger roles later on. (Though loved her in PSYCHO 3!) And my heart goes out to Mara Hobel, who played the younger, most taunted and tortured version of Christina. Her work is way too real and I wouldn’t be surprised if her life was severely scared by the film. (Maybe watching it was fun for some, but not me!) See, I’m not like those hard-core fans of MOMMIE DEAREST, who can watch it over and over again; I would never want to watch this film more than once. And while that may seem like an insult, it’s actually the highest compliment I could give MOMMIE DEAREST; yeah, alright, I’ll admit it, she scares me.
THE EXTRAS
Welcome to MOMMIE DEAREST – HOLLYWOOD ROYALTY EDITION, a terrific example of what to do when the big players refuse to do interviews. (Or anything for that matter!). All other companies take notice: this is a how-to!

Commentary (with Director – Not Of This Film – John Waters): For a film where the Director has passed away and the lead, in this case Dunaway, refuses to talk about the film, the makers of this DVD took a rather unique and original gamble by bringing on the quirky John Waters to do a full length commentary – a gamble that ultimately pays off nicely. Waters is not shy (as we fans already know!) and he calls it like he sees it. He dishes the dirt, even bridging the fact that Kathleen Turner did the very ice mask trick for real that Dunaway did in the film. He also opens up about his own childhood, proclaiming that he, like one of the characters in the film, wore an ascot in the 7th Grade and got beat up! Hell, even his throw away bits (“wish I had that in my closet” and “that outfit is very Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm!”) are priceless; he’s the ultimate Fanboy, but a funny Fanboy and he certainly makes up for the lack of what fans really wanted to see in this edition – the Dunaway!

The Revival of Joan (14:13): The players for this and all three of this disc's mini-docs, Producer Frank Yablans, Actress Rutanya Alda and Actress Diana Scarwid, talk about getting the film to the screen. Most interesting tidbit – Yablans had originally wanted Anne Bancroft to do the role of Joan Crawford!

Life With Joan (13:43): Shows a very interesting addition to the opening that was never seen. Plus the dirt gets dished a little more here, it’s getting better! (But guys at Paramount, stop shamelessly plugging the real Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar just because Paramount owns it!)

Joan Lives On (16:03): The best of the three, with John Waters chiming in to lighten things up! (Says Waters Of Joan – the film “didn’t change my opinion, but my values are a little twisted!”) John even talks for the fans, stating he doesn’t know why Dunaway won’t talk about the film and she should “lighten up!” In fact, everyone here speculates why Dunaway won’t discuss the film, and it’s the next best thing to having Dunaway talk herself! Throw in a scary male Joan Crawford impersonator and you got the goods! As put by Waters, “if you like movie stars and monster movies…” (No more Johnny Guitar, stop the madness!)

Plus there is also a Photo Gallery and an original Theatrical Trailer with Previews for FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF – BUELLER…BUELLER EDITION, REDS SPECIAL COLLECTOR’S EDITION (aren’t they all!), TITANIC 3-DISC SPECIAL COLLECTOR’S EDITION, and something called THE PRACTICALLY TRUE , ALMOST FACTUAL SORTA ACCURATE CHRONICLES OF GAY HISTORY. (Couldn’t tell if this was a gag or what?!)
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
With a film that you can watch once (like me!) or over and over again, combined with a great bunch of extras that cover the fact that star Dunaway is MIA, Paramount has put together a very interesting and unique little set that is very worthy of fans and even non-fans alike. My coat hanger is at full mast for you, MOMMIE DEAREST!
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