A Marriage Gone Wrong

The Pumpkin Eater boasts elegant direction by John Clayton (The Innocents), superb black-and-white cinematography by Oswald Morris, and searing portrayals by its storied Hollywood cast. Based on the acclaimed novel by Penelope Mortimer, a woman’s dysfunctional marriage torments her mind as she attempts to keep everything together. Anne Bancroft’s harrowing performance as the wife is matched by Peter Finch and James Mason at the top of his game.

Despite an ever growing number of children that threaten to overwhelm her sanity, Jo Armitage (Anne Bancroft) is not a paragon of motherhood. The mother of several children by different fathers, she’s already on her third marriage and is now looking to have more children.

Two years after Anne Bancroft’s Oscar-winning performance in The Miracle Worker, Pumpkin Eater was another Oscar-caliber effort.

Hollywood screenwriter Jake (Peter Finch) marries Jo in spite of the children and soon the demands of raising her children encroach on the new marriage. Jake escapes by plunging into his career and leaving Jo at home, often going away on movie shoots. Jake’s infidelities eventually lead to Jo’s complete breakdown as a depressed and lonely housewife. A married woman living in quiet desperation, Jo is broken by her aloof and frustrated husband.

The Pumpkin Eater is a classic Hollywood character study of an unhappy woman trapped in a bad marriage. Unable to effectively communicate with her husband, she plunges herself into having children whenever problems arise. Bancroft delivers a powerful portrayal of the broken housewife gaslighted by her cheating husband, overwhelmed and harried by family demands. Two years after Anne Bancroft’s Oscar-winning performance in The Miracle Worker, Pumpkin Eater was another Oscar-caliber effort.

There’s an edge to the marital drama rarely seen in Hollywood fare from the 1960s. The Pumpkin Eater hits hard on any number of domestic issues, from infidelity to abortion. It is unflinching at portraying its deeply flawed characters, none of whom receive sympathetic overtones. Perfectly crafted character development for both Jo and Jake make for an insightful melodrama deconstructing their flawed marriage.


Shout Factory’s 1.78:1 presentation highlights the film’s superb black-and-white cinematography. Licensed from Sony, The Pumpkin Eater offers generous amounts of fine detail and sharp definition. Almost certainly using a film transfer struck by the studio from the original 35mm film elements, this is another top-notch scan done by Sony.

To their credit, Shout Factory comes through with a strong AVC encode of the 2K transfer. The Pumpkin Eater runs almost 110 minutes. Encoded 1080P video offers high compression parameters on a BD-50, ensuring perfect grain reproduction and structure.

The film elements have negligible damage. It’s a stable presentation with consistent black levels and decent contrast. Lingering close-ups reveal excellent high-frequency information and a complete lack of digital video processing such as noise reduction. The film-like video perfectly resembles celluloid while bringing out previously unseen detail and definition.

For those looking for a comparison with the Powerhouse Films’ Blu-ray, DVDBeaver has screenshots of that release. Framed slightly different at 1.85:1 in the original aspect ratio, the two transfers are more similar than different.


The wonderful score by Georges Delerue (Le Mépris) has moody touches without going over the top and perfectly fits The Pumpkin Eater’s melodrama. Shout Factory offers the original monaural soundtrack in 2.0 DTS-HD MA.

It’s a relaxed sonic presentation without noticeable compression, delivering intelligible dialogue and adequate dynamics. The 1964 recording has fine fidelity for its age. There are no obvious audio defects.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a yellow font.


The Pumpkin Eater is actually one of the exclusive releases found in Shout Factory’s Anne Bancroft Collection. Exclusive at least in North America, Powerhouse Films did release it as part of their Indicator line in the UK. The Indicator edition does have a few extra special features, including a commentary.

Part of the eight-disc Anne Bancroft Collection with Don’t Bother to Knock, The Miracle Worker, The Graduate, Fatso, To Be or Not to Be, Agnes of God, and 84 Charing Cross Road, the movies arrive in an over-sized Blu-ray case with slipcover. A 20-page booklet dedicated to Bancroft’s career is the only extra goodie, outside of the supplements found on each disc.

Shout Factory’s BD is coded for Region A. The following special features are included specifically about The Pumpkin Eater.

Jeremy Mortimer on Penelope Mortimer (32:01 in HD) – Author Penelope Mortimer’s son recounts her life and influences over the course of her writing career in this extended new interview from 2017. Rare family photographs are featured during the interview. An engaging account of her life and how it influenced novels like The Pumpkin Eater.

Dinah and Fergus (12:04 in HD) – Actors Frances White and Fergus McClelland recall working on the movie when they were young. Another special feature from 2017.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Pumpkin Eater
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The Pumpkin Eater is powerful domestic drama with strong performances by Anne Bancroft as the broken housewife and a supporting turn by James Mason.

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