The Criterion Collection: Mildred Pierce Blu-ray review

Mildred’s been given a makeover. A stunning 4K restoration no less, from the lovely people at the Criterion Collection. Forget the HBO mini-series, this is the definitive release of the definitive version of Mildred Pierce. Appearing on the surface to be a domestic melodrama, this astonishing film – framed as a confessional thriller – effortlessly shifts into an expressionist shadowy noir.

Narrated by Mildred – an Academy Award winning Joan Crawford, who was third choice behind Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck – the film tells the story of a woman utterly determined to give her daughter everything she could ever want. Her daughter Veda (Ann Blythe) however is a vile, scheming, ungrateful, materialistic, social climbing parasite.

Mildred’s myopic devotion to this awful child takes her on a journey from a home-maker, to a hard-working waitress, and eventually a successful restaurateur. But nothing is ever enough for Veda, and we soon catch up to where the film began – with Mildred, resplendent in her fur coat, in a police station, following the murder of her second husband.

This is terrific, tormenting melodrama, anchored by two truly fearless performances from Crawford and Blythe. Michael Curtiz brings a visual flair and hard-boiled pulp technique to proceedings, twisting and subverting this story of a woman living the American dream and turning it into a rotting nightmare. Wonderful stuff.


This review first appeared on Entertainment Focus

John ParkerComment