The Joan Crawford Collection

Nobody did stricken horror like Joan Crawford, the '30s MGM working girl turned poised Warner glamour goddess in the '40s. Now the latter studio has thoughtfully packaged five of her most memorable performances in one collection, so you won't miss a single pained look or tortured expression of remorse. The anomaly of the set is The Women, strictly speaking an all-female ensemble piece with Crawford as the scheming counter girl who's stepping out with Norma Shearer's wealthy husband. When Shearer's society friends get together to gossip and sympathise, the brilliantly sparkling dialogue is enough to make you forget that they wind up rationalising hubby's behaviour. Mildred Pierce, meanwhile, finds Crawford out from behind the counter and moving mountains for ungrateful daughter Ann Blyth in a sensational James M. Cain adaptation. No matter what Mildred does for her progeny, she will always be a commoner above her station, and the various shady types surrounding her collude with Blyth to destroy everything she achieves. Ranald MacDougall wrote the razor-sharp dialogue and Michael Curtiz provided the hard-sheen direction, but you can't imagine anyone but Crawford anchoring the production. Humoresque finds her playing an alcoholic society matron who discovers low-born violin prodigy John Garfield; she falls in love with him, but he's more in love with his music, meaning a lot of lonely nights and a tragic conclusion. Technically, it doesn't offer much beyond the usual driven-genius clichés, but it's put together so sincerely that you sing along with every note. Possessed has our heroine suffering the slings and arrows of schizophrenia, which is apparently exacerbated by her pining for capricious lost love Van Heflin; she's sent over the edge when the cad starts seeing her stepdaughter. The pathology is painfully dated, but once again, the whole thing is so genuine in its sentiment that you feel for every questionable turn of Crawford's twisted mind. The one semi-dud is The Damned Don't Cry, with the star climbing out of a life of poverty one man at a time and into a life of crime that places her in danger; it's run of the mill and rather listlessly directed by Vincent Sherman, but even the cobbled-together script provides some choice opportunities for Crawford to first scheme and then wish she had never been born. Offered with a variety of commentaries, featurettes, and rarities from the vaults for your pleasure and fascination. (Warner)