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  • Writer's pictureJohn Parker

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.

A tremendous selection of supplementary material comes with the disc, including the 2002 feature length documentary, Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star. There is a new conversation recorded for this release between film critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito, as well as a terrific excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring Joan Crawford.

The disc also features a Q&A with Ann Blyth from 2006, filmed at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, as well as an interview with Mildred Pierce author James M. Cain, featured on an episode of the Today show from 1969. There is also the trailer, and an essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith.


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