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Diary Of a Mad Housewife - Diary Of a Mad Housewife( Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2022]

Diary Of a Mad Housewife is a 1970’s drama-come-pitch black comedy that focuses on the constantly belittled wife of a smug & pompous NYC lawyer, who decides to have an affair with an equally obnoxious writer. It’s a film that has a decidedly Kafkaesque feel, as one both feels for the terminal browbeaten wife but is darkly amused by the whole tragic comedy.  It’s a well, but sparsely cast film- which balances well its mix of drama and humour that at points nicely slides into middle-class American satire. Here from Powerhouse is a new Blu-Ray release of the film- taking in two versions of the film, with commentary tracks for both & a few other extras.

Released in the year 1970 Diary of A Mad Housewife was directed by NYC native Frank Perry, based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Long Island-based Sue Kaufman. In total Perry had twenty-one credits to his name- taking in fourteen feature lengths, with the rest of his filmography taking in TV films, docs, and a few US Show episodes. His feature-length took in the likes of emotionally charged mental health drama David & Lisa (1962), grim and surreal suburban drama featuring Burt Lancaster The Swimmer (1968), and back-from-death comedy fantasy Hello Again (1987).

The film focuses on Tina Balser (Carrie Snodgress). When we first meet her she is waking up next to her husband Jonathan (Richard Benjamin), who is belittling and berating her- commenting on her appearance, her lack of spark, and her smoking. Fairly soon we realize why she numbly drifting through her life- as she is ordered around to deal with Jonathan's wants and need, and looking after the pairs often talking back and spoilt daughters. The family live in an upscale middle-class apartment- but Jonathan is keen to better himself, investing in a wine vineyard, and fraternising with the pretentious and arty in the NYC scene.

At one of the trendy parties, which features a great pillow-ripping shambolic live performances from The Alice Cooper band, Tina encounters crude and smug author George Prager (Frank Langella). As time goes on, and Tina's life gets more mundane and tiring- she keeps meeting George at various events- and fairly soon they decide to meet in the afternoon to make love in his sparse flat.

The film is largely scoreless, and this really works pulling you deeper into its dark humour-edged drama. Benjamin is really great at playing the self-obsessed, deeply arrogate, and blindly smug husband- with some really toe-curling moments, like when he asks his wife ‘to roll in the hay with him’. Snodgress is most effective as the constantly mental beaten down housewife who is trying to find herself, away from the overbearing presence of his husband & unpleasant children.  And Langella wonderfully sells his portrayal of the selfish, obnoxious, and pretentious author.  Diary Of a Mad Housewife really is a spellbinding 70’s drama, which is liberally rubbed with moments of effective tragic comedy- all making for a great send-up of the chauvinistic and obnoxious side of mankind.

 

Moving on to the disc itself. And it features two cuts of the film- The theatrical cut (104 min), and the TV version (95 mins) which found Frank Perry substituting different footage for many sequences. I watched the longer of the two cuts, and the print looks crisp and clear bringing out the early 70s colours nicely. On the extras side, we get two commentaries -one on the theatrical cut with actress Rutanya Alda and film historian Lee Gambin. And one with Frank Perry biographer Justin Bozung- in the TV cut. I listened to the former, and it finds Alda and Gambin presenting a  chatty and informative track. They start off by discussing how this film was part of a series of 70’s films that looked at feminist ideals/ needs, and touch on the director's other films/ themes. We get comment on the film’s opening credits, highlighting the lead characters' shambolic/ manic life. We get talk about the life rather tragic life of Sue Kaufman, who wrote the novel film was based on- she committed suicide at the very young age of 50.  We get discussion about the quiet desperation of the film's lead character, and other films by screenwriter Eleanor Perry. Later on, they talk about Carrie Snodgress and her relationship with Neil Young who wrote the song for her "A Man Needs a Maid". We also find out she was offered the role of Adrian in the first Rocky film- which she turned down, and other notable roles she had. There’s talk about NYC's social life in the ’70s, and how it was full of pretentious folk. Other films worth checking out with similar themes, and much more. So, a well-worth-a-listen track.
Otherwise, we get the following new on-screen interviews- A Confidant Approach (5.44), which finds actor Richard Benjamin talking about his switch to being a film director, and how this impacted him. Feminine Mystic (30.41) which is an appreciation on the film by Academy Award-winning editor and filmmaker Chris Innis. On the archive side, we have Larry Karaszewski trailer commentary, Radio spots, an original film trailer, and a promotional/ publicity material-focused gallery. The finished release comes with an inlay booklet featuring a new essay by Paula Mejía, a profile of novelist Sue Kaufman, extracts from interviews with Frank Perry, Eleanor Perry and Carrie Snodgress, a look at Snodgress and Neil Young’s relationship, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits.

 

Diary Of a Mad Housewife really is a prime slice of 70’s drama-come-black comedy, and this new Powerhouse release gives us a good selection of extras & a nice bold print of the film. Yet another winner from the label!.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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