Mildred Pierce The Criterion Collection
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Melodrama casts noirish shadows in this portrait of maternal sacrifice from the Hollywood master Michael Curtiz. Its iconic performance by Joan Crawford (Johnny Guitar) as Mildred, a single mother hell-bent on freeing her children from the stigma of economic hardship, solidified Crawford s career comeback and gave the actor her only Oscar. But as Mildred pulls herself up by the bootstraps, first as an unflappable waitress and eventually as the well-heeled owner of a successful restaurant chain, the ingratitude of her materialistic firstborn (a diabolical Ann Blyth) becomes a venomous serpent s tooth, setting in motion an endless cycle of desperate overtures and heartless recriminations. Recasting James M. Cain s rich psychological novel as a murder mystery, this bitter cocktail of blind parental love and all-American ambition is both unremittingly hard-boiled and sumptuously emotional.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- New conversation about Mildred Pierce with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito
- Excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring actor Joan Crawford
- Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star, a 2002 feature-length documentary on Crawford s life and career
- Q&A with actor Ann Blyth from 2002, conducted by film historian Eddie Muller
- Segment from a 1969 episode of the Today show featuring novelist James M. Cain
- PLUS: An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith
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I realize that this film is regarded as an important "classic," but I am going to dock it a star because I don't think this Criterion release is up to standard. This is supposed to be remastered in 4k, and the video and audio bit rates are higher than the 2003 DVD release. But does that mean "better"? Not in this case. While I dislike that the 2003 Warner release is one of those "flipper" DVDs, the video still looks better. Perhaps this is just my eyes playing tricks on me, but the original DVD print is darker than this Criterion release, meaning that its "viewability" is somewhat clearer. If the Criterion DVD actually improved detail and clarity in medium to longer-range shots, it could be said that the transfer was still a "significant" improvement; but I compared frames from both films, and there is no improved clarity at all. So the question is how much do you want to pay for just the film? If it is just the film you want, I'd recommend the cheaper Warner DVD. However, Criterion includes an informative 90-minute Joan Crawford documentary as a special feature, and if you are a fan of Crawford you probably would then prefer this Criterion edition.
The Criterion extras include a fascinating, slightly bawdy interview Joan Crawford had with David Frost and a balanced, comprehensive TCM documentary on Joan Crawford's career. These helped put some perspective on this film, Crawford's overall career and her personal demons, along with the grace notes and professionalism that defined most of her career. The Ann Blyth interview is fun, but the audio quality is not ideal.