Friday, March 28, 2014

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Former child star 'Baby' Jane Hudson lives in a constant state of drunken jealousy over the later successes of her younger sister, who has since become crippled in an unfortunate accident. Jane's obsession with the past drives her into a deepening madness as she locks her sister away from the outside world and suppresses her with a series of mental tortures. By 1962, the careers of Hollywood queens Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were long since expired. Ironically, they would find renewed fame in their self-mocking portrayals of two faded stars not unlike themselves. Davis and Crawford are electrifying in the roles, and the pair's famous personal rivalry off-camera bleeds into their performances with a darkly comedic effect. Davis' cheap wig, garish make-up, and withered visage only add to her psychotic behavior to create one the silver screen's greatest human monsters. Crawford's performance is far more reserved but no less satisfying as the victimized Blanche. To speak only of these two fine actresses is to leave out the beautiful cinematography and elegant lighting that brings their warring to life under Robert Aldrich's artful direction.

The immediate success of Aldrich's Oscar-winning production spawned a complete sub-genre of its own known as Psycho-biddy or Grande Dame Guignol, where a haggardly older woman is either pushed to the edge of sanity or pitted against another elderly rival. These comparisons to the theatricality of the Grande Guignol are quite fitting given the melodramatic portrayals of the two lead characters. As it approaches its fiftieth anniversary, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE can be seen as nothing other than a defining classic in Horror and Suspense, and a must-see for all genre fans.

Rating: 10/10.

If you liked WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, check out:
THE BAD SEED, STRAIGHT-JACKET, HUSH... HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE, REPULSION.

5 comments:

  1. Haven't seen this one in a while - funny, I actually considered watching it on Saturday night. I opted for Pit and the Pendulum instead though. Even though it is impossible not to revel in the campiness of Baby Jane, it is still a weirdly moving, at times very suspenseful film that showcases two great performances. And as easy as it is to get caught up in the huge fuss that was the on-going feud between Davis and Crawford - once Baby Jane begins, it really does suck you into its warped world.

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  2. What makes that even more funny is I opted for this over PIT AND THE PENDULUM with Lance Henriksen, our strange ironies, James! Davis and Crawford are so great in this that the rest of the phenomenal production melts away by comparison and is nearly forgotten, when it is just an all-around excellent film.

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  3. Amazing movie all around even if it never fully embraces its horror potential. The suspense and banter between the two "elder statemen" are wonderfully creepy and darkly comical.

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  4. Davis is all the horror I need in this, if I woke up and she came out of the closet I'd shit myself twice.

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