Welcome to the Dollhouse

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Junior high school student Dawn “Wiener-dog” Wiener is perpetually teased by her classmates and tormented by the school bully, Brandon. All she wants is to be popular and that would certainly help her emerging crush on the lead of her brother’s garage band. Todd (Happiness) Solondz’s celebrated coming-of-age comedy won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and young star Heather Matarazzo was awarded Best Debut Performance at the prestigious Independent Spirit Awards. Perfectly capturing the growing pains of youth and suburbia with startling intensity, Welcome to the Dollhouse was widely praised on release with Janet Maslin of the New York Times describing it as a “mordantly hilarious suburban comedy - excruciatingly funny.” 

Picture 8/10

Radiance presents Todd Solondz’s coming-of-age cringe fest (in a good way!) Welcome to the Dollhouse on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The film is presented with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. For the sake of full disclosure, I did do some QC work on this release. The title is a region B release.

I was expecting a very dated presentation though I’m happy to say that doesn’t appear to be the case. It still looks like an older master that probably comes from an interpositive (I’m guessing, as I currently don’t have notes on the restoration). Still, they’re working with a solid base scan, and the restoration work has been reasonably thorough. A couple of heavier stains, as do flickering and the occasional spec, pop up quickly here and there. Outside of that, the restoration work has managed to clean this up wonderfully, and the image does remain stable.

The digital presentation is also more solid than I would have anticipated. Grain is present and rendered in a near-spotless manner. There are a handful of moments where it can look a little mushy, usually during dimly lit or nighttime sequences, but it retains a strong, natural-looking consistency. In turn, details are rendered well, and the image remains sharp, at least where the source allows. Colors are saturated well, capturing the 90’s in all its glory, and black levels are strong with decent shadow delineation, even within the nighttime shots.

The film could still use a fresh new scan and complete restoration, but this one still holds up incredibly well and offers a drastic upgrade over the 20+-year-old DVD.

Update (March 10, 2023): I received the booklet and the notes on the restoration confirm the scan was taken from the 35mm interpositive.

Audio 8/10

The film’s stereo soundtrack is presented in lossless PCM. It’s not an especially aggressive soundtrack, with music being the only moments that show actual range, but dialogue and the track sound sharp and clear overall. Still, its indy roots are evident.

Extras 8/10

Radiance delivers the first “special edition” for the film, packing on a handful of features. Impressively, they’ve gotten new interviews with director Todd Solondz and actor Heather Matarazzo, running 16 and 22 minutes, respectively. Both cover her casting, with Matarazzo delving more into that topic. Interestingly, it sounds like she had initially been considered for another role, which seems crazy in retrospect. Matarazzo does several stories about the production from her younger point-of-view and gets into how the film changed her career, but I appreciated her thoughts on how the film has held up and the way one’s point-of-view of it changes as they get older.

Solondz’s contribution proves fascinating. The director talks about the influence behind the film (his answer to the sentimentality of a show like The Wonder Years) and how he comes to write one of his films, finding its feet as he goes. He also talks about how the film was based on his observations, which leads to him discussing bullying a little bit and how the film captures a particular period since the internet has drastically changed things. He ends up being incredibly forthcoming, to the point where he admits they broke laws while filming it (like filming until 3 am with a young Matarazzo). It is an excellent interview with him.

Radiance has also brought together BJ and Harmony Colangelo from the Podcast This Ends at Prom to record a new audio commentary for the film. The track ends up being more of an appreciation of the film, the two admiring how the film captures the junior high experience and the period, the two relating their own stories along the way. This also expands into how the film captures and represents the 90s and everything within the period, from the look to family dynamics. They even address the elements that haven’t aged particularly well, contextualizing them for younger generations that may be coming to the film for the first time (the unrestricted use of the word “rape,” for example).

I liked the track on the whole, despite the increase in dead space as we get closer to the end, though disappointingly, it is laser-focused on the film with little to no mention of Solondz’s other work, even the films where characters from this one will appear again (for example, Greta Gerwig appears as Dawn Wiener in Solondz’s Wiener-Dog). Thankfully, Radiance fills that gap with a new visual essay by Hannah Strong entitled Todd Solondz’s Suburban Nightmare, running 15 minutes. Though it focuses on how Solondz’s films typically capture the “banality and horror” of American suburbia with a focus on “society’s outsiders” (placing Welcome to the Dollhouse front-and-center), she also works her way through the interconnecting films from Dollhouse through Weiner-Dog, pointing out characters that cross between films (though always played by other actors). I’ve only seen half of Solondz’s work, meaning I was only familiar with all of this to a degree, so I found this especially helpful. The most disappointing aspect is that clips from both Happiness and Palindromes are sourced from standard-definition sources, so not a good sign for any immediate high-def release of either film.

The disc then closes with the film’s trailer.

A booklet is also included with the initial run, though I currently don’t have a copy. I will provide an update once I do.

Update (March 10, 2023): I received a copy of the booklet, and it's a hefty 46 pages starting with a lengthy introduction by Solondz going over the production and some of its difficulties while expressing surprise at how well it did upon release. A.S. Hamrah then provides an essay on the film and its place in the wave of independent cinema that came out during the 90s, followed by another piece by Molly Lambert, who looks at the film's authenticity by relating it to her own experiences before closing off on how the film can work differently as an adult. There are then two extracts from Julian Murphet's book Todd Solondz, the first being from an interview with the director covering the film, the second being Murphet's thoughts on the film. A small section then goes over the film's critical reception, which was primarily high praise in North America, though it received mixed reviews after its premiere in the UK. All around, it's a wonderfully assembled booklet.

Not jam-packed, but it’s a solid set of features in the end, all worth going through, and the film finally receives the attention I felt it deserved.


A surprisingly satisfying release with a good set of features and a sharp-looking presentation.

BUY AT: Amazon.co.uk

Directed by: Todd Solondz
Year: 1995
Time: 88 min.
Series: Radiance Films
Edition #: 3
Release Date: March 06 2023
MSRP: £16.99
1 Disc | BD-50
1.85:1 ratio
English 2.0 PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English
Region B
 Interview with director Todd Solondz   Interview with star Heather Matarazzo   Todd Solondz's Suburban Nightmare: A visual essay by critic and author Hannah Strong on the film and its place within Solondz's work   Audio commentary by BJ and Harmony Colangelo of the This Ends at Prom podcast   Trailer   Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by A. S. Hamrah and Molly Lambert, archival writing by Todd Solondz and Julian Murphet and extracts from contemporary writing on the film