The movie that forever gave one pause before deciding how to accessorize their closet (you know the line) is given a terrific makeover in a new 25th anniversary edition DVD. Viewed now, the late Frank Perry’s maligned Joan Crawford biopic feels altered in some ways: the histrionics come across tamer by today’s up-the-ante standards, and at heart, the film is a handsomely crafted melodrama with committed performances (Faye Dunaway’s forever gave new meaning to the term tour-de-force). For better or worse, it also embodies a healthy sense of dramatic action, something many movies these days can’t be bothered to provide. Occasionally over the top? Sure. Entertaining as hell? You bet.
One of the movie’s staunchest defenders, director John Waters (who knows a thing or two about camp), offers a delightful and surprisingly thoughtful commentary and, a few scenes aside, considers Mommie Dearest a perfectly normal Hollywood drama. ”I don’t think it’s so bad it’s good. I think it’s so good, it’s perfect,” he gushes, and his scene-by-scene analysis is so sweetly observant he’s hard to argue with. His ruminations are often hilarious, such as ”If Faye’s at home and she’s channel-surfing and this comes up, does she turn it off or does she watch?” A good question, since Dunaway is nowhere to be found in the extras (she reportedly is not at all a fan of the picture), ditto for Mara Hobel, who memorably played young Christina Crawford.
But there’s plenty for fans in three featurettes which, while a tad repetitive, show that those involved made the film with detailed care. A real-life female impersonator, Crawford enthusiast Lypsinka, even makes an appearance to weigh in on the movie’s enduring appeal. Better still, these features all acknowledge the movie’s oft-imitated signature lines. (”Tina, bring me the ax!” ”Don’t f— with me fellas! This ain’ t my first time at the rodeo.”). And the belle of them all, the now AFI-branded ”No wire hangers!”