The ostensible villain of Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob is an execrable crime lord known as Tony “The Tiger” (Dean Stockwell), a reference to his furiosity, but also the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Tony also enjoys singing the jingle for a McDonald’s-like fast-food chain, to the point that he misses the murder of two of his henchmen while caught up in song. Demme never makes this mobster’s ties to mass marketing and big business anything more than an allusion, but it’s clearly in line with this irreverent, offbeat comedy’s suspicious view of major institutions, including the mafia, the F.B.I., and fast food.
When we meet Michelle Pfeiffer’s Angela de Marco, she’s under the rule of the mafia as the wife of Frank “The Cucumber” (Alec Baldwin), one of Tony’s henchmen. Their house is comically littered with stolen goods, name-brand electronics and kitchen utilities stored blatantly in corners and cupboards, and when Angela goes to the hairdresser, she’s pressured to socialize with Tony’s aggressive wife, Connie (Mercedes Ruehl), and her gaggle of lesser mob wives. The script, by Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns, depicts mobsters and those who buy into their dark influence as violent, wily caricatures, but Demme never lets their animated nature dilute the sense of pain that they inflict. Indeed, when Tony kills Frank for seducing his mistress, he makes eyes at Angela over Frank’s coffin, out of what seems like boredom and some mild sense of twisted vindication.
By the time Connie crushes a carton of eggs in front of Angela in the local supermarket out of frenzied jealousy over Tony, Pfeiffer’s squeaky-voiced widow heads out of the corroded New Jersey suburbs to New York City to live in a cramped dump with her young son. Tony drops in on her intermittently, but she’s also trailed by the feds, represented by Matthew Modine’s Mike Downey, an eccentric, absurdly driven agent out to make his name on Tony’s arrest. From this triangulation, Demme creates a wild-eyed romantic comedy that, much like his previous masterwork, Something Wild, displays a riotous undercurrent of menace, where those behind the camera take death very seriously, even if such things prove less troubling to the characters in front of the camera.
When the feds decide to put a hit out on Tony at his favored fast-food joint, his driver (Paul Lazar) can only muster a shocked “don’t” before an agent shoots him in the head. It’s a brief shot, but resonating within Demme’s close-up framing, of Lazard’s shaken hood isolated from the entirety of the world surrounding him, is a potent articulation of mortality. Of course, Tony escapes unscathed and continues to make his advances toward Angela, even as she’s clearly taken up a new life in New York, and a tentative romance with Downey. The filmmakers accentuate her slow-moving emancipation from the hollow decadence embodied in Tony by showing her curiosity with new cultures in the city, from the Jamaican salon where she finds work to the world-music-fueled dance club where she falls for Downey. And it’s in these environs that Angela finally flourishes with some modest struggle and a newfound self-reliance, which underlines Demme’s belief that the tinny comforts of suburbia and even moderate wealth, to say nothing of excused criminality, are the foremost agents of isolation and a degrading sort of conformance.
There are some issues with debris in Kino Lorber’s AVC-encoded video transfer, and the grain level leaves more than a little to be desired. Still, this Blu-ray treatment showcases a profound improvement over the DVD release of the film, with a noticeably higher level of clarity, which helps bring out the detail of the costumes and set design. Colors, though not quite optimum, are hugely improved, with the dance-club scene and the sequences in Miami showing a distinct pop. Black levels are excellent, and the digital manipulations are occasionally noticeable, but never impede the viewing experience. The audio is also solid overall, with dialogue out front and wild sounds, audio effects, and David Byrne’s fantastic score balanced nicely in the back.
Nothin’ doin’, unless you count a theatrical trailer.
Kino Lorber presents Jonathan Demme’s dark, irreverent romantic comedy with an admirable A/V transfer, but skimps completely on the extras, providing zero context for this exuberantly inventive film.