The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2 (5 Discs) (Widescreen) product details page

The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2 (5 Discs) (Widescreen)

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If you can get past the idea of a fortysomething Joan Crawford playing a carnival kooch dancer, Flamingo Road is a fine, if somewhat humid, soap opera. Like she had in Mildred Pierce (1945), Crawford portrays the ambitious girl from the wrong side of the tracks, a part she could play to perfection by 1949 -- if, that is, the audience is willing to suspend a bit of disbelief. Warner Bros. did what they could to make the obvious age problem less so, hence the appearance of fellow "old-timers" Gertrude Michael and Alice White as Joan's co-workers, but it still strains credulity when Crawford, as one of "the sultan's favorite" belly dancers, attempts to wow 'em on the midway. Crawford isn't the whole show, of course, there is also: Sidney Greenstreet, a fat spider spinning his corrupt web all over town; Zachary Scott, playing the same weak-willed schlemiel he did in Mildred Pierce; and David Brian, a good actor who could hold his own and often did against powerful dames like Joan and Bette Davis. Hans J. Wollstein, All Movie Guide

A prime example of the "incredibly-bad-but-enormously-entertaining" film, Torch Song is a hoot from start to finish and a favorite of bad film aficionados. Playing the kind of tough hardened dame that had become her trademark (she "has the mouth of an angel, but the words that come out are pure tramp," as one character says), Joan Crawford turns in the kind of over-the-top, ludicrous performance that is entirely removed from reality, yet maintains an undeniable fascination; one simply cannot look away. Much the same can be said of the entire film, which tends to elicit a "Did-they-really-say-that?" response from viewers. Filled with incredible, instantly quotable dialogue (such as Crawford snapping to the blind Michael Wilding, "Why don't you get yourself a seeing-eye girl," or criticizing a chorus boy who trips over her leg with "He gets paid a very handsome salary to dance around that leg"), the script piles cliché upon cliché and sidesteps no opportunity to provide its star with a "big scene," no matter how poorly set up. Even the physical production provokes laughs, from the inch-thick make-up on the star to the faux-modern bedroom set. The piece-de-resistance, however, is the legendary "Two Faced Woman" number, featuring staggeringly inept choreography, gaudy costumes, an all-too-obviously dubbed Crawford and possibly the most embarrassing use of blackface ever in a major production. (Crawford's emotional outburst at the end of the number is in a class by itself.) Torch Song may not have turned out to be the kind of film its star intended it to be, but it is definitely a memorably experience. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide

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