A mobster’s moll takes the rare opportunity to change her life in Jonathan Demme’s 1988 warm, wistful and hilarious Married to the Mob. If we’re to take Demme’s entire oeuvre as his empathetic approximation of American culture, then this film may be his most biting and satirical. Shot by legendary cinematographer and frequent Demme collaborator Tak Fujimoto in his delicately ornate style and offering an ensemble of performers all hitting their marks perfectly, this is a true gem that grows on you with each viewing. Married to the Mob arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Fun City Editions and OCN Distribution. While the new 2K restoration from the interpositive disappoints, this new edition comes appointed with some fantastic newly produced supplements and offers a better color grade than the previous 2014 Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release is Worth A Look.
In the wake of Jonathan Demme’s passing in 2017, I mourned by enveloping myself in his work. Not because I wanted to check off every film of his career or anything, but rather because his work contained the beauty of life itself. He had the uncanny ability to bring his empathetic humanism to the darkest and brightest corners of stories, even in Silence of the Lambs, a work that I think benefits and becomes more terrifying thanks to that humane vision. So, it should come as no surprise that his mobster comedy from 1988 contains the kind of whizz-bang fun and self-reflexive humor needed to sell a story that could easily be played broadly. But here, it’s like the focus is being duly stolen away from the classic mob trappings and replaced with an empathetic portrait of women reclaiming their identity from those trappings.
In Married to the Mob, Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) – wife to Long Island mobster Frank ‘Cucumber’ de Marco (Alec Baldwin) – is given the power to escape her unhappy marriage when her husband is killed by his wily boss Tony ‘The Tiger’ Russo (Dean Stockwell). Angela seizes the opportunity by escaping to a new life in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with her ten-year-old son Joey (Anthony J. Nicci). There’s one hang-up, though: Tony ‘The Tiger’ has the hots for Angela, and the FBI agents (Matthew Modine and Oliver Platt) monitoring Angela are now given an opportunity to infiltrate the mafia don’s ranks to take him down for good. But of course, FBI agent Mike Downey (Modine) falls for Angela, and that further complicates things.
I’d liken Married to the Mob to Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy in some tangential-yet-crucial ways, like how both use very strong color schemes to emphasize the absurdity of classic mob tropes. Not only that, but they both reflect that absurdity back into the performances, yet the end result is completely different in both works. In Married to the Mob, the absurdity is cut with equal doses of the dangerous reality in which the story operates and a romantic arc that actually lands, while the other mobster flick is brash showmanship writ large. And yes, there’s room for both in the world.
One thing that stuck out to me on the umpteenth rewatch of Married to the Mob is, of course, how crucial Demme’s contributions are to the film as a whole. Not just as a director, but also the vibrant, empathetic, music-loving man that could find beauty within the worst in the world. David Byrne’s score is exactly the quirky bed for Demme to lay other creative tracks upon, like the use of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and Jane Child’s “Welcome to the New World.” They’re two of the most prominent songs on the soundtrack, while the other hits are relegated to the end credits montage (one of the best), but they put in the work of perfectly encapsulating Demme’s approach; one of empathetic exploration within the confines of reality. Simply put, Married to the Mob is among Demme’s warmest works and offers the kind of quick-witted, fast filmmaking that’s representative of Demme’s films produced at New World Pictures and under Roger Corman.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Michelle Pfeiffer falls in love and others fall into bullet-riddled deaths in Married to the Mob with Fun City Edition’s single-disc (BD-50) Blu-ray release. The BD-50 disc is housed in a clear amaray case with reversible artwork and offers a booklet with essays by writer/podcaster Jourdain Searles and DJ/writer Margaret Barton-Fumo. The case is also housed in a limited-edition slipcover designed by Margalit Cutler (now sold out on VinegarSyndrome.com). The disc boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, browse the special features, choose subtitles and pick chapters. New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and clips from the film play on a loop on the menu screen.
Married to the Mob’s history on Blu-ray has been a bit interesting. The 2014 Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics (check out our review from 2014 here) offered a somewhat-disappointing picture despite offering some key positives. First, the transfer had a ton of dirt and white specks popping up that could have been removed and restored with the proper resources, but there was a decent layer of film grain and the color grade for the most part (although a bit cooler than what it should have been) was solid.
Having said all of that, I’m disappointed to report that this new 1080p presentation sourced from a reportedly new 2K restoration from the 35mm interpositive doesn’t improve upon that previous release enough to warrant an upgrade here. The concerns with the transfer appear almost immediately in the opening credits, as those bright blue title cards look blocky and pixelated where they should be more angular, plus the background of those shots are a lot sharper, making the cards really look awkward. And while that concern doesn’t persist in some of the other title cards, the presentation makes a huge push for clarity over what’s natural, resulting in a representation that suffers from making grain look like harsh digital noise.
The differences between the 2014 Blu-ray and this new release are remarkably clear when comparing the discs, with the former not pulling all the requisite visual information out of the transfer and the latter pulling too much and harming the presentation in the process. I’m not sure if this is to blame on the restoration itself and the interpositive that was used or the encoding of the Blu-ray, but the result can often be very harsh in motion. Stray screenshots look fine, yet in motion blacks are crushed and even some digital artifacts appear in some sequences.
This isn’t to say that this new transfer doesn’t have merit, though. The color grade is definitely truer to the source than the 2014 Blu-ray was, with those bright 1980s-era pastels really coming to life here. Just a shame given how colorful and rich with texture Demme’s films usually are. If you’re a fan of the film, I can’t recommend an upgrade on this transfer alone, but know that it offers some positives over the 2014 Blu-ray.
Bullets whizz and music grooves in Married to the Mob, presented here with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that does a great job at showcasing the witty dialogue, boisterous sound effects and quirky soundtrack. Dialogue and music are balanced nicely without either dominating the other unless it’s on purpose, plus the key action sequences get some nice aural height despite being a stereo track.
Now, the supplements category is where Fun City Editions’ release of Married to the Mob blows Kino’s out of the water. For one, there’s three newly filmed interviews to enjoy here, all of them filled with terrific anecdotes about the film’s production and Demme’s kindness on the set. In particular, the interview with Mercedes Ruehl is rather candid and exhilarating because of that fact, as she’s an actress that really doesn’t mince words about how she feels. Not a surprise given the ferocity and open-wound pain she brought to her character in the film. In addition, the attached booklet offers different perspectives on the film, one from a writer/podcaster/critic with a lot of historical knowledge and another from a DJ/writer who eloquently zeroes in on Demme’s signature use of music.
Romantic love becomes stronger than mobster-influenced fear in Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob, presented here with a disappointing transfer and a really nice collection of supplements from key cast and crew of the film. This single-disc Blu-ray release from Fun City Editions is Worth A Look.