Sunday, 24 July 2011



What to add to this high camp gem that has not been said before… My two cents, of course, but where do I begin? What can I tell you that would completely hook you? That I was an extra on the film? That I know the star personally? Or better yet, that I heard through the rumor mill that a sequel is at the planning stage? Oh, how I wish it was all true, but one thing’s for sure: you’ll end up having a ball reading this post anyway, for if you’re still here, it means you’re as hooked on this film as I am. So sit back, unwind and be prepared to be taken back in time. Here it goes:

I actually went to the movie theater to catch MOMMIE DEAREST. I was there when the film opened wide in North America on September 18th, 1981. The same year that my mid-teen angst went into overdrive. You know, when I was so sure I had it all figured out. Suffice to say I knew zilch about life, just as I knew nothing about the film star. Not La Faye; I had seen her before in the wonderful gangster flick BONNIE AND CLYDE and in that other bad but so chic-looking movie THE EYES OF LAURA MARS. I mean the other one, that Joan person. I had never heard of Joan Crawford before. In fact, my friend and I thought she was actually an ice skater queen, on account that MOMMIE DEAREST begins with her getting her skates laced up by some bit player. Of course, it was all for the benefit of a film being shot within a film. It had nothing to do with Olympic legends. Oh, she was a queen all right, but a different kind of a queen, one that I would soon learn could rival any foul-tempered diva on and off screen.

You have to understand something here. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. All of that Christina Crawford rant over mom’s lack of maternal skills was unknown to us at the time, as was the book on which the film was based. Call us clueless, but we were just a couple of pimply-faced kids out on a Friday night, nothing more nothing less. The only thing we were sure of, besides being familiar with the film star Dunaway, was that MOMMIE DEAREST had all the right ingredients to be very dark, horror like dark. I mean look at that poster sheet alone. Dunaway in a scary getup looking like the ice queen that she is, and with that torn corner signed pic … It’s enough to hail it as one of the scariest teasers of all time. Sure, it’s hardly FRIDAY THE 13TH with that shadow defined killer roaming a campsite. But, in some ways, it is far worse. To me that poster represented the real deal. The day-to-day sicko who could probably handle anyone, including Pamela Voorhees.

As it turned out, I was right on target. ‘Cause we all know how MOMMIE DEAREST fared. It is one of the most terrifying, unintentionally funny, jaw-droppingly bad but visually stunning piece of work to ever showcase a villain. It literally destroyed Faye Dunaway’s career (though with what’s been rumored about her throughout the years, it’s no wonder). Even after all this time she still refuses to discuss the film, which is really a bummer, for you feel like saying: “Hey Faye, get a grip. Have a sense of humor and embrace the love. It’s just a movie, for crying out loud!” And what about those pivotal moments of violence in the film? How can anyone keep a straight face at all the atrocities going around? So over-the-top they are that you even expect dead Joan to snap open her eyes and jump at Christina’s throat à la EVIL DEAD during that infamous funeral parlor scene.

OK, now that I got everything off my chest, let me just say that my life has never been the same since seeing MOMMIE DEAREST for the first time in ‘81. I don’t know about you guys (nor about my childhood friend, for that matter), but rarely do I forget to watch the film at least once a year. I know, I know, call me crazy, but to me MOMMIE DEAREST is the epitome of horror perfectness. It genuinely makes me want to hide my face behind my hands every time Joan gets irritated. And I would forever be grateful to La Faye if she ever agrees to star in my proposed sequel aptly named MOMMIE DEAREST: THE HIDDEN YEARS. I’d even agree to be touched by her wire hanger just to get the project off the ground (though she’ll probably think I’m too old; or worse, not worthy). In the meantime get yourself the Hollywood Royalty Edition of MOMMIE DEAREST on DVD and enjoy the film and the John Waters commentary.

 Until next post—Martin



Ron Klopfanstein said...

Of course, I had to read the "Mommie Dearest" post first. It's always interesting to find out what others thought of what I guess is best described as a "funny nightmare". Your take was fresh, you probably first saw it around the same time I did and I know I was sort of transfixed in horror, too.

I wonder what Faye Dunaway was thinking? Have any interviewers been brave enough to even bring up the subject? I know I wouldn't.

Your review made me think that Joan Crawford would make a good subject for one of those new novels where they cross zombies, sea monsters w/ the classics. Joan Crawford resurrected as a zombie to seek revenge on Faye Dunaway. That would be a good movie to review for your blog.

I'm enjoying reading these. I'll be back for more.

Jon in Chicago said...

I saw "Mommie Dearest" at the theater too! My mom dropped my brother and me off for a Saturday matinee at the Arlington Theater, a lovely old movie palace (now long-gone) in Arlington Heights, Illinois. This was during the last gasps of the era when the theaters themselves were still part of the fun of the moviegoing experience. (Unfortunately we took those beautiful cinemas for granted, never realizing that one day they would mostly be gone.)

Anyway, what I remember most is that the theater was full of mothers with little kids ... many of whom were crying during the horrific abuse scenes! Those kids were probably much more traumatized by this PG-rated movie than they would have been by any of the slasher movies that were also playing at that time.

Authorfan said...

Love it.