Mommie Dearest appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Diac. Dearest came with a largely appealing presentation.
For the most part, sharpness worked fine. A little softness impacted the occasional interior, but these instances remained modest and non-intrusive.
No signs of jagged edges or moiré effect appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. With a natural layer of grain, the image didn’t seem to suffer from egregious noise reduction techniques, and print flaws became a non-factor.
Colors opted for the low-key side of natural, with a minor lean toward the brown side of things. When given the chance, the hues felt reasonably vivid and they always worked fine given the movie’s choices.
Blacks appeared pretty deep and dense, while shadows offered appropriate clarity. This was a nice rendition of the film.
Reworked from the original monaural audio – which also appeared on the disc in lossy Dolby Digital form - Mommie Dearest offered a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. I’m not sure why the disc’s producers bothered to do so, as the chatty movie did little to span beyond its one-channel origins.
Music swelled from the sides and a little environmental material also came from those areas. Nonetheless, the mix stayed focused in the center much of the time and didn’t offer much expansion.
At least the quality was perfectly adequate. Speech could be a little dense, but the lines were usually acceptably natural, and they always remained easily intelligible.
The score was somewhat muted but offered decent clarity. Although the music could have boasted greater range, it seemed fairly distinctive.
Effects were also clean and relatively accurate, though they lacked much punch. While the mix never excelled, it seemed acceptable given the movie’s subject and its age.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2006? The Blu-ray’s lossless audio might’ve been a little warmer than the DVD’s lossy track, but the age and nature of the material meant the two seemed pretty similar.
On the other hand, the Blu-ray brought a massive improvement over the DVD’s picture quality. The Blu-ray looked better defined, cleaner and more vibrant than the subpar DVD. This turned into a major upgrade.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we find two audio commentaries. Also on the DVD, the first comes from filmmaker John Waters, as he provides a running, screen-specific look at the flick.
Waters had nothing to do with Dearest, but he loves camp, so someone figured he was a logical choice to dissect it. That makes sense, though the end result is less than stellar.
Waters talks about the movie’s reception and reputation, the real-life Joan Crawford, differences between Hollywood in Crawford’s era and today, and his take on the flick. He doesn’t think it’s all that campy, and he defends it much of the time.
Waters mixes some catty comments with honest insights, and this works at times. However, he just doesn’t have a lot to say.
Waters apologizes for Crawford’s behavior much of the time and frequently makes repetitive comments. Waters presents a decent track that moves at an acceptable pace, but if you skip it, you won’t really miss out on anything.
New to the 2021 Blu-ray, the second commentary features drag queen Hedda Lettuce. She presents a running, screen-specific discussion of… not much.
Lettuce speaks maybe half the time, and when she does so, she just makes snarky comments about what we see. Virtually nothing Lettuce utters seems clever or witty.
Instead, Lettuce goes with lowest-common-denominator sarcasm without a hint of intelligence or spark. Honestly, I have no clue who might enjoy this track, as it just feels dull and pointless.
Maybe if the commentary matched Lettuce with some other drag queens, we’d get some raucous energy. Instead, we find a track with literally no entertainment or educational value.
Since Waters already gives us some snark, why not provide a discussion from the POV of an actual film historian? This becomes a missed opportunity, and I can’t imagine anyone will find much to like in this awful stab at a snotty commentary.
Some featurettes follow, and The Revival of Joan runs 14 minutes, 15 seconds as it presents comments from producer/screenwriter Frank Yablans and actors Rutanya Alda and Diana Scarwid.
They discuss how the project moved to the screen, the adaptation of the book, finding a director and a cast, aspects of the characters and performances, sets and wardrobe.
Yablans dominates the piece as he tells his vision of the movie and why he wanted to do it. We get a reasonable amount of detail and insight packed into this short program.
For the 13-minute, 44-second Life with Joan, we hear from Yablans, Alda and Scarwid. The show tells us of an alternate opening concept, Faye Dunway’s attitude on the set and her work with the others, other character and performance notes, the film’s over the top elements, and a few scene specifics.
“Life” really acts as a companion piece to “Revival”. There’s no narrative reason to separate them, as they’re both quite similar in their presentation and strengths. “Life” provides another informative piece with nice details about the film.
Joan Lives On lasts 16 minutes, five seconds, as it features Yablans, Scarwid, Alda, Waters, and drag actor John “Lypsinka” Epperson.
It looks at the film’s reception and its publicity campaign, its afterlife as a camp classic and its popularity with gay audiences, its adaptation as a live drag performance, favorite sequences, Dunaway’s refusal to discuss the film, the way the flick affects the public perception of Crawford, and its legacy.
Again, “Lives” fits in with the other two featurettes, as all three could have easily been joined together as one long documentary. It provides a good look at the movie’s enduring notoriety.
New to the 2021 Blu-ray, Filmmaker Focus goes for seven minutes one second. Here biographer Justin Bozung discusses director Frank Perry and aspects of the Dearest production.
With only seven minutes at his disposal, Bozung doesn’t get much time. Nonetheless, he offers some good notes. Paramount should’ve had him record a commentary instead of Lettuce.
To finish the disc, we get a trailer and a Photo Gallery that presents 34 images. These mostly offer shots from the flick, though we also get a few behind the scenes snaps and publicity pictures. None of them seem particularly memorable, and the disc reproduces them with DVD-level quality.
Its target audience will continue to delight in the campy silliness of Mommie Dearest. Though I’m not a big fan of camp, I must admit this film’s many over-the-top moments kept me entertained until it fizzled during its second hour. The Blu-ray offers very good picture as well as decent audio and an erratic but occasionally informative set of supplements. The movie remains a mess but the Blu-ray brings it home well.
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