Blu-ray Review: Diary of a Mad Housewife

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Frank Perry | CAST: Carrie Snodgress, Richard Benjamin, Frank Langella, Lorraine Cullen, Frannie Michel
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 15, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $9.99, Blu-ray $17.99
BONUSES: commentary, trailer
SPECS: R | 95 min. | Comedy drama | 1.85:1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2 | Audio  | Video  | Overall  1/2

A wife and mother on New York’s Upper East Side finds herself addled, restless and dabbling in affairs extramarital in 1970’s Diary of a Mad Housewife, a hard-to-find title for years that’s only now making its debut on DVD and Blu-ray.

Carrie Snodgress and RIchard Benjamin in Diary of a Mad Housewife

Based on Sue Kaufman’s almost-classic, consciousness-raising bestselling novel from 1967, Diary centers on lovely Bettina Balser (Carrie Snodgress), an anxious Manhattan homemaker (there’s 1967 for you!) who’s not-quite-on-the-verge of a nervous breakdown, though she isn’t doing all that well, either. Married to a needling, proto-Yuppie lawyer (Richard Benjamin) who will only drink his ginger ale with cracked ice (not cubed), and the mother to a pair of bratty little girls, Bettina isn’t interested in the class-conscious social climbing with which her husband is obsessed. A distraction comes in the fashionable form of a narcissistic and cynical writer (a darkly appealing Frank Langella), with whom she enjoys some “rolls in the hay”—the kind that her husband provides only when he’s in the mood and with little imagination.

Directed by Frank Perry and adapted for the screen by his then-wife Eleanor Perry not long before they divorced, Diary plays as a comedy-drama while revealing Bettina’s inner feelings and desires. Today, a half-century later, the film’s scenarios and dialogue come off like a period-perfect lampooning of the Second Wave feminism-flavored fiction that flooded the market in those years. Still, Benjamin and Langella are fine as caricatures of two very different kinds of men who only want a woman for two things (and one of them involves cleaning). But it’s Oscar-nominated Carrie Snodgress who’s the shining star here—she focused, occasionally furious, and fraying at the edges even as she discovers that she’s not the only one in New York City getting screwed—and screwing herself—out of happiness and respect.

Fun factoid: Ms. Snodgress’s performance inspired the 1972 song “A Man Needs a Maid” by her soon-to-be lover Neil Young.

Buy or Rent Diary of a Mad Housewife

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.