In 1927, young Charlotte Hollis’ married lover (a young Bruce Dern) is hacked apart with a meat cleaver, and Charlotte’s blood-stained dress points to her as the murderer. There is never sufficient evidence, however, and she is never charged, but lives on as the subject of endless gossip, slowly going mad. In 1964, Charlotte (Bette Davis) is decaying as much as her house, which is about to be torn down to make way for a highway. She refuses to give up the house or her past, and, convinced th…t her lover’s widow is trying to driver her out of home and mind, calls cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland) to her aid, much to the displeasure of eccentric housekeeper Agnes Moorehead (in the role Una O’Connor would have played had the film been made in the 30s). Soon after Miriam arrives, all sorts of mysterious and terrifying events take place.
The follow-up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? not only casts Davis once again as a shrieking, half-mad grotesque, but brings back Victor Buono too (as Charlotte’s domineering father in the prologue). Moodily shot with much deep focus and sinister shadows, this is arguably the last word in Southern Gothic. The cast is formidable (to those already mentioned, add Joseph Cotten, Cecil Kellaway and Mary Astor), but it is de Havilland who really goes to town in a truly formidable performance. Luridly good fun.
As ever, this Studio Classics release has both the original mono and a 2.0 stereo option. Both sound fine (though there is some sibilance in the early goings), but the preference must go to the mono track, as the stereo has the usual surround voice problem without being much richer than the mono.
The aspect ratio is 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen (which means a little bit of cropping is going on for those watching it on a 16×9 screen). The print is in excellent shape: there is one brief scene where the grain becomes an issue, but otherwise there is virtually no sign of aging or damage. The black-and-white tones are simply gorgeous.
Glenn Erickson’s commentary is detailed, witty and informative (not to mention considerate: he warns listeners right off the bat that he will be using spoilers). Otherwise, all you have are theatrical trailers and TV spots. The menu is basic.
Great lashings of grue (especially by 1964 standards), and a fine commentary. This is the high-class version of such fare as Strait-Jacket, and highly recommended. (Do both as a double bill, and you’re rocking).
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots