MOMMIE DEAREST (1981)

Directed By: Frank Perry
Written By: Frank Perry, Frank Yablans, Tracy Hotchner & Robert Getchem 
Based on The Book by: Christina Crawford 
Cinematography: Paul Lohmann
Editor: Peter E. Berger 

Cast: Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest, Howard Da Silva, Rutanya Alda, Jocelyn Brando 

This is a mother and daughter tale and partial biography as it is more Christina Crawford’s story and memoir. 


This movie already has its own reputation. Mostly as a camp classic. Not that it seems like it was intended that way, which is what makes it more enjoyable overall is that this was done with an earnestness. Seeking to be a Hollywood tale based on a bestseller that qualifies more like gossip. More a supposed peek behind the scenes at a legendary actress that by today’s standards would have maybe been a tv-movie. This seems to be a blueprint for future films of this type.

One wonders if it was meant to be camp with Faye Dunaway’s look and some of the raised ridiculous melodrama of some scenes. It sometimes feels like an homage to the women of classic movies and the types of movies. Ms. Crawford made it throughout her career.

As his film goes behind the scenes but constantly seeks to have an aura of glamour. The film isn’t as grand as it presents itself. As it stays mostly indoors and feels like it takes place more on sets.

The film isn’t a biography of Joan Crawford, but more of Christina Crawford and her years spent with her adoptive mother. Based on her book which became a bestseller. As it is a gossip piece which I am sure has helped and hurt its reputation. These days there are so many books like this that they barely make an impact. 

What gives the film its luster is Faye Dunaway over the top but it seems pitch-perfect performance which has been the anchor and mascot for this film. It seems particularly when it comes to drag performers too. A sort of early inspiration. It might have partially damaged her career at the time, but she gives it her all and makes it memorable. As soon as you are done with the film. She is the one thing you probably won’t forget. She is at the center of it all.

No matter what happens or who she is in a scene with the film And scene is all about her. Diana Scarwid Co-Stars as Christina Crawford. Has to endure and stand up to her. She holds her own but is nowhere near as strong or powerful, but gets full credit for surviving and not backing down

So much so that you barely really notice a thing or anyone else. It is legendary in its own right as it is still talked about today next to her best-remembered performances in films such as NETWORK and BONNIE & CLYDE.

The scene that helped me discover camp and made me Laugh. While Christina is in boarding school and she ends up fooling around with a guy in a barn. (The teenagers are all played by adult actors who look too old) another girl discovers them and yells “I’m Gonna tell” is so ridiculous and the tone is so over the top. Almost what you would believe a 9-year-old would tell.

So many memorable scenes that are like the greatest hits of a sort with the forced haircut, the wire hangers meltdown, or the swimming race. 

The film is melodramatic, though as flagrant as she is her behavior is somewhat to be expected of what we know now 

While the film is fine at times it feels overwrought and downright dull as you wait for the next over-the-top thing to happen. 

Grade: B-

THE LADIES CLUB (1986)

Directed By: A.K. Allen
Written By: Fran Lewis Ebeling & Paul Mason
Based on the novel “THE SISTERHOOD” By: Casey Bishop & Betty Black Cinematography: Adam Greenberg
Editor: Marion Segal & Randall Torno

Cast: Karen Austin, Diana Scarwid, Christine Belford, Bruce Davison, Beverly Todd, Marilyn Kagan, Arliss Howard, James LeGros, Carol Baxter, Paul Terafotes 

A raped policewoman forms a vigilante group of various rape victims. They abduct and castrate men whom have committed repeated violations of women, and got away with it through legal technicalities.

This rape-revenge vigilante tale is a little different In the way that the revenge seems to never be to kill the men who rape repeatedly. Like Batman, that question only seems to come late but they punish the men by castrating them.

The film for the tawdry subject matter. Plays more like a television movie on the subject as there is barely any bad language and at times the scenes while well-meaning in their direction and emotions come off more melodramatic and unintentionally humorous. 

Especially the scene when a character you get sister is sexually assaulted (luckily never shown) but the aftermath and how it is shown just seems like Something out of a public device announcement you would show to school children about the dangers of going off with a stranger. 

When it begins the film seems like it will be typical and even the perpetrators seem more of a stock room of suspects punks who are looking to rob a house. Discover she is a cop and then decide to rape her and they get off on court easily by acting and dressing like choir boys.

We meet various female characters throughout some of whom stay with their spouses who claim to not even believe them When they said they were raped (what). 

Though most of the males come off bad or unsympathetic by the end. Even Bruce Davison playing a fellow cop who is interested in Karen comes off as a weakling and ineffective even as he tries to romance her and be there for her. 

Arliss Howard shows up playing a co-star’s husband who when he finds out what she is dining and breaking the rules by telling him. As she only tells him because he suspects she was having an affair. He comes across more aggressive and abusive to be believably supportive later on.

While we meet plenty of these women in the group. We only get to know three In particular and by the end the one who didn’t sure become the strongest advocate for what they are doing and the one who was gung- ho at first. Now has reservations.

The third act while obviously done for dramatic purposes seems silly and only there for the ending to finally put a fine point on all of this.

So while the film offers a different take on the vigilante tale. Including where it seems the original Perpetrators that start off the lead and who is the very reason they seek revenge never really come back. 

So the film is something to entertain but very hard to take seriously watching it through the prism of modern times.

Grade: C