Obviously, the idea of making a film about mixing races in 1949 was a topic that was quite taboo. Nobody can fault Pinky for being groundbreaking in its subject matter. However, this is the very definition of a timely film. Being viewed almost 60 years later, it comes across as silly, almost like a midnight viewing of Refer Madness. Just as the kids in Reefer are obviously not under the spell of some horrible mind-altering herb, so Jeanne Crain is about as convincingly “colored” as Bill Gates on …now skis. Not only does she not have a single black feature, but her very mannerisms betray her, making her a figurative outcast even among the other black characters in the film.
This is not a film that would change the mind of any pre-existing racist, as it is just too absurd for rational thought. No, this is most certainly not To Kill A Mockingbird. Sure, Kazan went on to direct some amazing films, such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront and East of Eden, but Pinky was clearly just a warm-up to his later directorial achievements.
There are some problems with the audio here. For some reason, viewers are given the option of listening either in English mono or English stereo. I’m not really sure what difference it makes to hear the soundtrack in stereo instead of mono, but there you have it. In either case, the dialog is very difficult to hear, as it is not only low in the mix, but lacks definition. The difficulty is compounded by the offensive “jive” accents the black actors are expected to use. Difficult dialog, basic sound effects and virtually no score all adds up to one lame audio offering.
Pinky is a film that is in desperate need of restoration. Fox did a great job with the classic poster packaging and the slipcase, but they cut corners here where it really counts… the audio and the video. This transfer is packed full of scratches, dust, focus problems and general video noise. The sad fact is, this disc just looks horrible. Just some basic restoration is all I would expect, but this film hasn’t even gotten the most basic of respect. Sure, this is a bad film, but if you are going to go to the trouble of dressing the thing up like a respectable film on the outside, you might as well clean up the picture quality on the disc on the inside as well.
There are just a couple of extras on this disc. First up is the music-only theatrical trailer. I was especially amused by the fact that the trailer starts off by saying that “this is a film in the style of…”, and then lists off about six truly classic films in an attempt to full the viewer into actually thinking this film will be as good as those classics. If you bought this tactic, then the joke’s on you.
The other extra is a commentary by film historian Kenneth Geist. While the track is a bit bland and clearly scripted, Geist is clearly very knowledgeable both about this film, as well as other films in this style. He is unquestionably a very intelligent man, but would be much better suited for a novel or an essay about the film, instead of merely reading comments while the film is running.
It’s awfully difficult to make a film that pretends to rail against the evils of racism, yet is filled with racist epithets. When dealing with a topic as powerful as racism, the danger always exists that if the material is not handled with the utmost care, the result can be hokey and lack the powerful message that was originally intended. The fact that the film actually supports segregation as a viable solution to racism is a perfect example of the misguided way in which the film tries to solve this ongoing problem. Kazan developed into a wonderful director later in his career, but with Pinky, he is clearly not there yet.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer