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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Serial Mom - Collector's Edition



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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted June 07 2008 - 03:10 PM






SERIAL
MOM

COLLECTOR’S EDITION


Studio: Universal (Originally released via Savoy Pictures)
Original Release: 1994
Length: 1 hour 34 mins
Genre: Comedy/Satire/John Waters

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Color/B&W: Color

Audio:
    • English Dolby Digital 5.1


    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Both Commentaries

    Rating: R (Sexual Humor, Violence, Language)






Release Date: May 6, 2008

Rating:
3


Starring: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake and Suzanne Somers

Written and Directed by: John Waters





Serial Mom is a typically caustic John Waters black comedy, focused on the exploits of Waters’ ultimate suburban housewife and mother – one who resorts to violence to ensure that things remain wholesome. In a major casting coup, John Waters has managed to get Kathleen Turner to play the title role, and she pretty much devours all the scenery while having a fairly good time in Waters’ tilted world. The film is garish and loud, and Waters fans really wouldn’t have it any other way. There is some violence, but it’s played directly for laughs, in keeping with the dark comedy motif of the film.

This film was previously available on DVD roughly 10 years ago from HBO Home Video, with a non-anamorphic transfer and a commentary by Waters. The new release has a new anamorphic transfer, 5.1 sound, and new extras to go along with the original commentary.

VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5

Serial Mom is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that is loudly colourful, as is appropriate for Waters’ films. There’s a lot of primary color on display here, particularly the blues and greens of suburban life and then the red of the blood that the main character spills throughout the film. It's a pleasure to watch, with the caveat that the images tend toward the lurid. This transfer is a solid improvement over the earlier release, if only for the anamorphic encoding.

AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5

Serial Mom is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English only, but most of the sound really lives in the front channels. There’s some use of the surrounds for atmospheric effects (chirping birds early on, a punk rock concert later) and for music, but a good part of the sound of this film happens in the front stereo and center speakers. The dialogue is as clear as it can be, although there is the occasional moment where the actors don’t enunciate clearly.

SPECIAL FEATURES: 3 ½/5 ½

Serial Mom comes with the original commentary by John Waters, and then adds several new features, including a new commentary with Waters and Kathleen Turner, a making-of featurette, a gore film featurette, and the original trailer. This is a pretty nice package, particularly for an older cult film that hasn’t had much love on DVD before.

  • Commentary with John Waters – John Waters’ scene specific commentary from the original release is included here. It’s fairly informative, with Waters running down the details of how he made the film and pointing out his usual players along with the name actors he was able to enlist. It’s a good listen, particularly if you’re a fan of Waters’ films.
  • Commentary with John Waters and Kathleen Turner – This is a new scene-specific commentary recorded by Waters with Kathleen Turner and an unbilled prompter who throws out questions whenever they run out of steam. Waters does most of the talking again, but Turner does contribute her perspective on what she was doing, and why she took the project. Kathleen Turner fans should be cautioned that she sounds very different these days than she did in her heyday back in the 80’s. It is certainly understandable given the time that has passed (we all change in time), but it can come as a shock if you’re not prepared for it.
  • Serial Mom: Surreal Moments (29:03) (Non-Anamorphic) – This featurette is a new and pretty thorough look at the making of Waters’ first film with what he considered to be a substantial budget. Several cast members are interviewed, including Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake and Patty Hearst, along with the usual Waters’ troupe, and Waters and his regular collaborators join in. Kathleen Turner isn’t part of this featurette, but I don’t find this as much of a drawback as other reviewers, simply due to her participation in the commentary. The usual interview footage is intercut with the usual on-set video and film footage. There’s some great stuff here, ranging from Sam Waterston’s discussion of a sex scene with Turner to Patty Hearst’s perspective on being involved with Waters and the film, to a discussion of Waterston's encounter with the mosh pit at the punk concert. Waters sums it up by describing the film as “a kid with a little money to go to a good school...”
  • The Kings of Gore: Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman (11:25) (Non-Anamorphic) – This brief featurette focuses on Waters’ fascination with gore films such as Blood Feast, and their inclusion in this movie. Lewis himself is interviewed, along with David Friedman, who discusses the theatricality of the gore films, and the various promotional tricks they would use, such as sending barf bags out as promo items or parking ambulances at the theaters. This is great stuff, and you can see the twinkle in the man’s eyes as he relates it.
  • The Making of Serial Mom – (6:10) (Non-Anamorphic) – The original EPK featurette from 1994 is also included here. This is your basic video promo, but it does give you a quick visit behind the scenes at the production. There’s nothing deep here, but it’s nice to have this for archival purposes. And there’s a bit of interview video with Kathleen Turner at the time of filming.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:28) (Non-Anamorphic) – For completion’s sake, a non-anamorphic copy of the original theatrical trailer is also included here. The bigger moments of the film get featured, so there are some spoilers, but nothing that Waters fans would not have already been expecting.

    Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French for the film and the special features. Both commentary tracks are also subtitled. A full chapter menu is included.

    IN THE END...

    Serial Mom gets a little respect and a nice release from Universal with this Collector’s Edition. John Waters’ fans will certainly enjoy the extras and the new commentary, while Kathleen Turner fans will enjoy watching her devour the scenery here. And it sports a solid new transfer to boot.


    Kevin Koster
    June 7, 2008 (Somehow in my initial post of this review, I backdated it by a year. That way, I would be eleven months early on the review rather than one month late. Oh well...)


#2 of 5 OFFLINE   CraigF

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Posted June 08 2008 - 09:50 AM

Agree, this was a solid and worthwhile release IMO. The colors were kinda bright, but not in a bad way.¹ Nothing to complain about here considering what I was expecting from before. I found the extras interesting too, what an interesting bunch of characters Waters surrounds himself with. Edit: ¹ By pure coincidence, I now recall this was the first DVD I watched after recalibrating my display. Let's say I was a little upset for a while... [P.S. calendar check!]

#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted June 08 2008 - 12:40 PM

Craig, 1. You're very funny. 2. Maybe I'm stuck in a time warp in 2007. That or I'm getting sloppy again... 3. But I still laughed out loud when I saw the date...

#4 of 5 OFFLINE   CraigF

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Posted June 08 2008 - 12:52 PM

When I first saw the date, I thought this may have been a review of the DVD from another region, but it *sounded* like what I saw...then I saw you started the (original) thread etc. and knew... BTW, thanks for the review! It's very fair/accurate IMO. You should have seen me doing the DVD shuffle after I put this one in. It is extremely dumb to check a calibration with a new unknown disc, why do people do such stupid pointless things?

#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted June 08 2008 - 03:10 PM

To answer your question with another one, why do reviewers like me try to backdate their reviews by a year to make them look like they got done on time? But to be serious, thanks for your kind words.





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