Mommy’s 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray

December 10th, 2019 by Max Allan Collins

In 1994 and 1995, here in Muscatine, Iowa, I wrote and directed (and executive produced) two B-features – Mommy and Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day. We raised the money locally for the first film and the feature’s success funded the sequel. We brought Patty McCormack in to play Mommy, a kind of take on what might have happened to her famous Bad Seed character if she had grown up to be a mom herself. Though not officially a sequel, the idea of Rhoda grown up caught a lot of imaginations and Mommy did very well, getting tons of major media including TV (Entertainment Tonight) and print (Entertainment Weekly).

And our casts included Jason Miller, Majel Barrett, Brinke Stevens, Gary Sandy, Arlen Dean Snyder, Del Close, Paul Petersen, Larry Coven, and somebody called Mickey Spillane. My friend Mike Cornelison (Eliot Ness himself) was in both films, as were my discoveries Rachel Lemieux and Sarah Jane Miller. The idea in those days was to have plenty of names to spruce up the video box; but, boy, did having actors on that level pay off.

So. If you still have any of the money set aside for Black Friday, Cyber Monday or are looking for something to use those Amazon gift cards you’ll probably receive, look no further.

A Blu-ray double feature of Mommy and Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day is available for pre-order now at $19.98, around a third off the regular price. In addition to separate Blu-rays of the two features, a DVD packed with special features is also included – a Making of Mommy documentary, me interviewing Patty McCormack for Mommy’s Day, bloopers, media coverage and more. The release date is January 21 and you can pre-order it from Amazon right now, here.

This has been a longtime coming, and I’m thrilled to have these two features out again in a superior format and looking better than ever.

My editor and director of photography, Phil Dingeldein – one of my best friends and my most valued collaborator in the world of video and film – worked with me on both features, getting them into a 16:9 aspect ratio for proper viewing on a flat screen TV. Mommy, which appeared on Lifetime in 1995 (we shot it in 1994), was seen on TV in the old 4:3 aspect ratio (i.e., not widescreen). Mommy’s Day, which appeared on TV in many foreign countries (both broadcast and DVD), also was seen in the old square-tube 4:3 TV format. Both features enjoyed their biggest success with the Blockbuster home video chain (R.I.P.), where VHS copies were in the wretched 4:3 format. The widescreen versions were only seen on the Roan Group’s laserdisc releases, and even those simply represented a masking off of the 4:3 masters, top and bottom.

This just means we’ve never been able to get the widescreen versions in front of audiences except at occasional screenings around the Midwest (including the Muscatine premieres).

Restoring these movies – which were shot in a combo of Betacam professional video and 16mm film – required new color correction at Phil’s dphilms in Rock Island, as well as us going through and reframing every shot to accommodate our intended widescreen image. (When we shot the features, the video monitors had grease-pencil indications of where the widescreen frame would be within the tube-TV-style 4:3 image we were shooting.)

We also had to make a trip to Fairfield, Iowa, to get access to some once-state-of-the-art equipment that was now obsolete in order to check out what the content was on some of the Mommy and Mommy’s Day tapes we’d located in storage.

For Mommy we found the original output from the Avid Video Composer (cutting-edge at the time), having used one of the first digital Betacams. To make our feature acceptable to the likes of Lifetime and Blockbuster, we had to make our shot-on-video material, however high-end, look filmic. The industry standard at the time was a process called FilmLook, used a lot for TV at the time, to make video-shot features and series episodes appear to have been shot on film.

In 1994, Phil and I took our Avid output tape to Hollywood to the FilmLook facility and supervised the creation of a version that appeared more like film. We did the same two years later with Mommy’s Day.

We hadn’t been told the FilmLook process would darken the footage, and because of that our new master – the basis of the Lifetime, Blockbuster and international broadcasts and DVDs – was overly dark. If you’re familiar with Mommy, you may recall that the junkyard sequence that concludes the film is sometimes so dark it’s hard to tell what the eff is going on. To put it mildly, Phil and I have never loved that.

So it was a very good thing to have the un-FilmLooked tape to work from in creating the new widescreen Mommy master. We could not locate the Avid output tape of Mommy’s Day, but we had factored in allowing for the footage to be darkened by FilmLook, so in that case using the D-2 master (high-end for the time) was not problematic, as long as we could find a way to play the thing. VCI Home Video was able to do that.

My apologies if that was too technical. I barely understand some of it myself, but fortunately Phil is both knowledgeable and terrific in this area, and helps me through.

Phil and I often smile about the number of people we encountered in Hollywood on our FilmLook trips who would chat with us, discover we were in town to do post-production on a feature, and would want to know about how to get their movies made (!). That and other anecdotes are included in new commentaries that Phil and I recorded for this Blu-ray release.

With luck, we’ll place the Mommys with a streaming service at some point. But right now, we’re stoked about getting both of these films out there in one package, looking better than ever and in widescreen.

Check out the Mommy’s Day cast here.


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2 Responses to “Mommy’s 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray”

  1. stephen borer says:

    As a proud extra in the sequel, I’m glad to 1. read about the Blu-Ray release, 2. learn about the extras, and 3. realize that most of “us” are still around. However, I must protest the use of the term “B-features” – nothing you or Barb have ever been associated with is , oh, second level. And you and your associates killed yourselves working on these projects. “Danke!”

  2. Peggy (Hoffmann)White says:

    What fun, I would love to have these but wouldn’t have any way to play them. But this does bring back some fun memories.