Anyone who knows me, knows that I love old movies. And, the only thing I love more than old movies is when they look brand new on DVD. I have to praise Warner Home Video’s efforts on this front, because they have done an amazing job with a number of classic films, including NORTH BY NORTHWEST, CITIZEN KANE, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and NOW, VOYAGER, all of which have looked simply amazing on DVD. The latest film to be given this royal DVD makeover is the Joan Crawford classic MILDRED PIERCE ($20).
MILDRED PIERCE is the film that earned Ms. Crawford her Academy Award statuette for Best Actress, and as I watched this film, yet again, it is very easy to understand why. As the title character, one can see that MILDRED PIERCE is perfectly tailored to Crawford’s talents, not to mention this showcase role allows her to appear in virtually every frame of the film. Told in flashback, MILDRED PIERCE opens with a murder and a trip to police headquarters, where we learn that Mildred was a self-sacrificing middle class woman, whose every decision was motivate by her blind lover of her children, particularly her daughter Veda (Ann Blyth).
To give Veda all the best things in life, Mildred becomes a successful restaurateur the hard way, by starting out as a lowly waitress and then working almost continuously to better her position in the industry. Mildred even wrecks her own love life for her daughter’s sake, and only after doing so does she discover the depth of Veda’s ungratefulness. While Mildred Pierce is certainly the film's standout role, Ann Blyth proves to be nearly as memorable as Crawford with her performance as the spoiled rotten (to the core) Veda. The terrific cast of MILDRED PIERCE also features Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Bruce Bennett, Lee Patrick, Moroni Olsen, Veda Ann Borg, Jo Ann Marlowe and Butterfly McQueen.
Warner Home Video has made MILDRED PIERCE available on DVD in a wonderful black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. As I mentioned above, Warner has worked their brand of digital magic to make MILDRED PIERCE look almost like a brand new movie. This presentation is nearly flawless, with a small scratch under the special effects of the opening credits serving as the only clue that MILDRED PIERCE is a couple years shy of its sixtieth anniversary. The image is stunning and truly shows off the beauty of Ernest Haller’s black and white cinematography. Everything appears crisp and wonderfully detailed. Blacks are pure and velvety, while the white are clean and wholly stable. The grayscale is rich and helps add dimension to the superb looking picture. Digital compression artifacts are completely concealed throughout.
MILDRED PIERCE comes with a fine sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack, which seems to have been digital cleaned to remove all noticeable traces of background hiss and surface noise. Fidelity is respectable, especially when one considered the recording technology of the mid-1940s. Max Steiner’s appropriately soapy score sound pretty darn good, even when a decent amount of amplification applied. Dialogue is always crisp and fully understandable. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been encoded onto the DVD.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a very nice supplemental section. A Joan Crawford filmography and MILDRED PIERCE awards listing have been included on the same side of the DVD as the movie. However, on the flip side of the disc one will find the documentary Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star. This excellent eighty-five minute program was produced for Turner Classic Movies, but there is no better use for it than as a supplement to Crawford’s triumph MILDRED PIERCE. Featuring interviews with family, friends, contemporaries and lovers, the documentary paints an interesting portrait of an actress who loved and respected her fans above all else. The documentary balances Crawford personal and professional lives, without dwelling on some of the better publicized negative aspects. However, those who are interested in Crawford’s Mommie Dearest dark side will find daughter Christina on hand amongst the interviewees. Trailers for nine Crawford movies close out side two's supplements.
MILDRED PIERCE is a film classic that has been given a superb presentation by the folks at Warner. This DVD truly looks amazing, which really warms the heart of this movie buff. If you love old movies as much as I do, you will want to add a copy of MILDRED PIERCE to your DVD collection. Absolutely recommended.
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