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Michael Curtiz
Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott
Writing Credits:
Ranald MacDougall

A hard-working mother inches towards disaster as she divorces her husband and starts a successful restaurant business to support her spoiled daughter.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English LPCM Mono

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 3/7/2023

• Conversation with Critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito
• “The Ultimate Movie Star” Documentary
• “David Frost and Joan Crawford” Excerpt
• Q&A with Actor Ann Blyth
• Segment with Novelist James M. Cain
• Trailer
• Booklet
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Mildred Pierce: Criterion Collection [4K UHD] (1945)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 5, 2023)

A three-time nominee, Hollywood legend Joan Crawford won her first Best Actress Oscar for 1945’s Mildred Pierce. This also became her only Oscar victory.

At the film’s start, someone murders Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), and he utters his wife Mildred’s (Crawford) name with his dying breath. Mildred threatens to commit suicide, but instead, she seems to conspire to frame former business partner Wally Fay (Jack Carson) for the killing.

Instead, police feel Mildred’s first husband Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett) committed the crime. As police chat with Mildred about events, the story flashes back to show what led to this state of affairs, factors that emphasize Mildred’s relationship with spoiled oldest daughter Veda (Ann Blyth).

Because I’ve not seen all of Crawford’s movies, I can’t call Pierce her “signature performance”, but her work does embody what I think of when I imagine her cinematic persona. I believe Crawford’s cinematic attitude focuses on strong women who attempt to overcome odds, and Mildred clearly fits that concept.

Without question, Crawford becomes the best aspect of Pierce, as she offers a terrific performance. While she gives the role the indomitable feel we expect from Crawford, she also lends to part pathos and humanity. As Mildred struggles through the ups and downs of her life, Crawford holds on to the character’s heart and makes her a full-fledged person.

Alas, the rest of the film tends to let her down, as Pierce suffers from too many warmed-over noir moments. The movie alters the source novel in many ways, most of which relate to its “thriller” components.

And those become its biggest weakness. The decision to start Pierce with Monte’s murder seems like a bad move, as it does too much to color our perception of the characters right off the bat.

We assume that Mildred committed the crime. This makes it more difficult to view her in an objective light when we flashback to see her past.

The use of the murder itself also feels like a distraction. That crime didn’t exist in the novel and it acts as nothing more than tawdry window—dressing in the movie.

At its heart, Pierce exists to give us a character tale that focuses on Mildred’s struggles. These feel much less consequential when we know Monte’s death awaits.

Would Pierce work much better if told chronologically and without the gimmick of Monte’s murder? Probably, but I don’t know how much of an improvement it would make because the narrative feels so scattershot.

Whereas the story needs to focus on Mildred’s obsessive desire to please Veda, the movie veers away from that theme too much of the time. Pierce feels like the screenwriter grabbed parts of the novel willy-nilly without much concern for thematic coherence.

Veda never turns into the monster the film needs her to be either. Pierce hints at these elements, but they don’t come to the fore as necessary.

Blyth’s performance makes the role feel insubstantial. She doesn’t present the “bad seed” the narrative requires.

All of this results in a somewhat disjointed and choppy film. Crawford’s lead performance almost fares well enough to hold the package together, and she makes sure we stick with the tale, but the movie lacks dramatic cohesion and fails to create much dramatic impact.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Mildred Pierce appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Despite its age, the image looked good.

Sharpness appeared fairly tight and distinctive most of the time. Some softness occurred, though many of these instances came from the source photography – in particular, Crawford received some “glamour lighting” that seemed intended to obscure her age.

Otherwise the movie tended to seem pretty accurate, with only minor soft spots. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred.

Despite the film’s advanced age, source flaws were non-existent; this was a clean presentation. A good layer of grain appeared, so I didn’t suspect noise reduction.

Blacks appeared deep and dense, while shadows felt smooth and clear. HDR gave whites and contrast extra power. This became a highly satisfying presentation.

The LPCM monaural soundtrack of Mildred Pierce also worked well. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music came across as fairly bright and lively, though dynamic range seemed limited given the restrictions of the source.

Effects were similarly modest but they showed good clarity and accuracy within the confines of 72-year-old stems. This was a more than adequate auditory presentation for an older movie.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Criterion Blu-ray? Both came with identical audio.

As for the 4K’s image, it boasted superior delineation, blacks and contrast compare to the Blu-ray. HDR became the biggest step up here, and this turned into a nice upgrade over the Blu-ray.

Note: although I believe all prior Criterion 4K releases went with Dolby Vision, this one does not. It sticks with standard HDR10.

No extras appear on the 4K disc, but the included Blu-ray copy sports some materials, and the main attraction comes from a 2002 documentary called Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star. It runs one hour, 27 minutes, six seconds and includes comments from biographer Bob Thomas, daughter Christina Crawford, columnist Liz Smith, playwright/historian Charles Busch, historian Karen Swensen, director Vincent Sherman, key MGM hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff, actor/husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr., director/friend Herbert Kenwith, interior designer Carleton Varney, friend Peter Rogers and actors Diane Baker, Betsy Palmer, Anna Lee, Cliff Robertson, Anita Page, Virginia Grey, Dickie Moore, Ben Cooper, Margaret O’Brien, and Judy Geeson.

Narrated by Anjelica Huston, “Ultimate” discusses aspects of Joan Crawford’s life and career. Via Christina’s comments, we get some info about Joan’s alleged failings/abusive behavior, but the program mostly concentrates on other elements.

I like that emphasis, as I think it seems appropriate. While “Ultimate” needs to spend some time in the “no more wire hangers” realm, that area shouldn’t dominate – especially since it appears Christina’s claims should be taken with some grains of salt. “Ultimate” covers Joan’s life and career pretty well.

Next comes a chat between film critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito. They discuss the source novel and its adaptation as well as story/character elements, cast and crew, and interpretation of the movie.

Some of this works nicely, but the piece comes with an awful lot of praise for Pierce. As a result, it doesn’t become as insightful as I’d like.

For an archival clip, we find David Frost and Joan Crawford. From January 1970, this 15-minute, two-second interview looks at aspects of her career, with a little discussion of Pierce. This doesn’t become a hard-hitting chat, but it’s decent view of Crawford.

After this we discover a 2006 Q&A with actor Ann Blyth. It runs 23 minutes, 56 seconds and examines parts of her life/career with an emphasis on Pierce.

In front of a giddy crowd, matters tend to seem somewhat superficial, but we still find a reasonably enjoyable conversation. In addition, Blyth looked astonishingly good for a then-78-year-old.

James M, Cain delivers a 1969 interview with the novel’s author. It lasts 10 minutes, seven seconds and covers elements of violence in then-current society as well as reflections on his work and writing in general.

This seems like a mildly interesting chat at best, mainly because it’s so anchored in its era. Cain talks a lot more about culture circa 1969 than his career.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a 12-page booklet. It presents an essay from critic Imogen Sara Smith. It becomes a good conclusion to the package.

When Mildred Pierce succeeds, it does so via a strong performance from its lead actor. However, with mushy plotting and lackluster narrative movement, not even Joan Crawford can fully redeem this spotty melodrama. The 4K UHD offers very good picture and appropriate audio along with a decent compilation of bonus materials. The 1945 Pierce offers sporadic pleasures at best.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of MILDRED PIERCE

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