“God, you people work just like the mob! There’s no difference.”
“Oh, there’s a big difference, Mrs. de Marco. The mob is run by murdering, thieving, lying, cheating psychopaths. We work for the President of the United States of America.”
The preceding quote perfectly sums up the anarchic spirit of Jonathan Demme’s 1988 comedy Married to the Mob, which has just been given a new Blu-ray release with a 2K restoration by US label Fun City Editions, with UK distribution by Radiance Films. Demme’s film, which has a terrific lead performance by Michelle Pfeiffer, is an ’80s update on a ’40s screwball comedy, and it’s wonderful to see it get a new lease of life.
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Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) is trapped. She’s not only trapped in an unhappy marriage with hotheaded gangster Frank “The Cucumber”, she’s also trapped in the world of the mafia trying to escape the tentacles of Frank’s boss, don Tony “The Tiger” Russo (Dean Stockwell). Angela sees her way out when Frank is murdered by Tony, but it gets worse when Tony declares his love for her and follows her when she moves to New York. Things are further complicated when she begins to fall for local handyman Mike (Matthew Modine), who in reality is an FBI agent shadowing her to get to Tony. And then there’s Tony’s terrifying wife Connie (Mercedes Ruehl), who is certain Angela and Tony are having an affair and is determined to catch her husband out by any means necessary.
What’s great about Married to the Mob is how rich it is in character. You have four central roles here and they all have great motivations that push their characters. Angela wants to get away from Tony, Mike wants to put him away, and Connie wants Tony to keep his hands off of Angela. The smart writing and direction really sets up each actor to get into their character, and all four are excellent, filling archetypes while also bringing something fresh. Angela is the gangster’s moll, Mike is the determined lawman, Tony is the big don, and Connie is the psychotic wife, the latter of which is amusing given how Karen in Goodfellas comes across like Connie when she goes to Janice’s apartment to scream at her – interestingly, the Scorsese picture was two years after this.
Pfeiffer is fantastic as Angela; funny, sexy, and vulnerable. She’s really the heart of the film, and while it is a zany comedy on the surface, Pfeiffer takes the character and just imbues her with an authentic underpinning of the situation she’s in. Even when married to Frank, she complains that everything she owns “fell off a truck” and that she has no choice being in the circle of mob wives who do nothing but drink, gamble, and gossip. Modine plays it off the cuff, he’s a bit goofy and loveable, but he’s also a hero, albeit one who looks like he’s taking after the cop shows he’s seen on TV.
Stockwell and Ruehl are an amazing couple, a force of nature really. What’s great about Stockwell is that he seems to be able to effortlessly play someone who seems likeable and jovial, but who is really a scumbag. Ruehl as Connie is like a hurricane, tearing through everything and everyone, and there’s a beautiful scene at the end where she catches up with him and delights herself in aiming a shotgun at his nether regions.
Married to the Mob has been restored by Fun City from a 2K scan of the original 35mm interpositive, and it looks fabulous. The colour design of the film shifts quickly from drab to dazzling, and it comes across beautifully. The audio is a 2.0 DTS-HD MA track and it’s full and clear, with plenty of oomph behind David Byrne’s score and the typically esoteric Demme needledrops.
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Some thoughtful extra features are supplied, including new interviews with Modine, Ruehl, and writers Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns. There’s also an audio commentary with the hosts of the I Saw What You Did podcast and a booklet with new writing, although this was not supplied for review.
Married to the Mob is a great ’80s comedy that is surprisingly touching and intelligent, with killer performances and a feminist edge. Fun City’s Blu-ray is typically excellent, looking and sounding excellent, and supplemented with fine special features. It deserves a bigger spotlight and hopefully this might lead to it getting one.
Married to the Mob is out on Blu-ray on 20th March from Fun City Editions and Radiance Films.