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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Queen Bee (1955)

Eva: Aren't I wicked?
Judson: As a matter of fact, you are.

- Joan Crawford, John Ireland

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 18, 2001

Stars: Joan Crawford, Barry Sullivan, Betsy Palmer, John Ireland, Lucy Marlow
Director: Ranald MacDougall

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mature themes)
Run Time: 01h:33m:36s
Release Date: December 18, 2001
UPC: 043396708891
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-A- C-

DVD Review

Love her or hate her, Joan Crawford (born Lucille Fay LeSuer) was a true Hollywood star. Making the transition from silent film into the talkies in the late 1920s, she would spend 18 years under contract to MGM. In 1945 she moved to rival Warner Bros. and her first film at her new studio would earn her a Best Leading Actress Oscar ® , the only one of her career. Mildred Pierce (1945) was written by Ranald MacDougall as his first screenplay, and the writer would meet up with Crawford again in 1955 for Queen Bee, which he would also direct. Based on the novel by Edna L. Lee (All That Heaven Allows), Queen Bee would put Crawford in her element, and become a strong influence on her adopted daughter Christina's scathing biography, Mommie Dearest, in which she claimed her mother wasn't acting this role.

"I've always wanted to meet someone really wicked." - Lucy Marlow

An apprehensive Jennifer Stewart (Lucy Marlow) arrives at Phillips House, a posh southern mansion, at the bequest of her cousin Eva. With her rough introduction to Carol Lee Phillips (Betsy Palmer) and her fiancé, Judson Prentiss (John Ireland), the secrets of her new home begin to unfold. There is unease in the air as afternoon tea guest Sue McKinnon rambles on until Eva arrives home, at which point she and her brother Ty beat a hasty retreat. Eva has the abilty to chill the atmosphere with mention of her name, but in person, she seems a likeable if daunting presence. Her husband Avery (Barry Sullivan) seems content to brood in his intoxication, as the tale of Miss McKinnon, and her abandonment at the alter is unveiled by Eva.

At first, Jennifer is enamoured with her cousin, believing the bitterness directed at her by the other members of the household is unfair. However, as Eva's true nature begins to reveal itself, she too has to watch her back before going against this dominating and manipulative woman's desires. As we learn just how deep her spitefulness really manifests itself, those around her are pawns in her chess game, but it may just be that the lady goes too far when one of her schemes ends in disaster.

Joan Crawford plays the bitch like no other, and MacDougall's screenplay is chock full of biting dialogue, suiting the barbed tongue of its star to a tee. Decked in an ensemble of exquisite couture, Crawford brilliantly commandeers her role with a friendly faŤade, masking the poisonous personality behind it. From fawning to furious, Crawford owns each scene she's in, and manages to stealattention even when she is off camera. Director MacDougall does a fine job establishing the audience's rapport with his characters, from Barry Sullivan's liquor-sodden Avery, and John Ireland's betrothed Judson to the short appearance by Fay Wray as the spaced out and lovelorn Sue McKinnon. Lucy Marlow carries her wide-eyed and innocent part off without a hitch. Charles Lang's (Charade) cinematography captures the elegance of the southern home with style, while George Duning's score amplifies the undercurrent of the film's tension. But it is Joan Crawford's vindictive embodiment as the venomous mistress of her domain that makes Queen Bee such a joy to behold.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic, the black & white image is looks very good, with a slightly soft, though natural presentation. Fine grain is well rendered, and detail is kept intact, without any annoying cross hatching or interference effects. Grayscale is even and balanced with subtle shadings being delivered cleanly. Print defects are minimal and infrequent, with only a couple of more noticible, though still minor flaws. A fine transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is clean, with no distortion. Dialogue is easily discernable, and never brash. The tone is even and smooth, with no excessive peakiness or sibilance. Frequency range is somewhat limited, as should be expected.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, Portugese, Chines, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Suddenly, Last Summer, The Last Hurrah
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Vintage advertising
Extras Review: Extras consist of brief biographies and filmographies for Ranald MacDougall, Joan Crawford, John Ireland and Fay Wray. Full frame trailers for Suddenly, Last Summer and The Last Hurrah accompany a trailer for the feature.

Two pieces of vintage advertising, comprised of a lobby card and the film's one sheet are also present. A promotional blurb from the original release is included in the insert.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

This is Joan Crawford at her finest, full of venom, waiting to turn the screws on all that come before her in this tale of a vindictive southern woman who must mold her family and acquaintances to her domineering will. Her only joy is in the discomfort she causes, and here Crawford suits the role like no other. The screenplay is written with a sharp wit, the characters cower in the shadow of the star, and the world or the hive known as Phillips House is just waiting for the sting of the Queen Bee.


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