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USA 1962
Directed by
Robert Aldrich
124 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Although the pairing of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford even if their best work was long behind them has ensured this film's reputation Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? is a creepily lugubrious affair that suffers from an excess of Gothic staginess.

Davis plays Jane Hudson, a one-time vaudeville child star caring for her crippled sister, Blanche (Crawford), whose successful film career ended in an auto accident for which Jane was blamed. After setting the scene in a two-part prologue, Aldrich settles down to depicting Jane’s spiral into madness, tormented by her lost past and drowning in booze and guilt. Making extensive use of the split–level setting of a mouldering interiors (which bear little resemblance to the house's exterior) to create an atmosphere of intimidation Aldrich ratchets the grotesque up to the maximum.

Although Davis, who was nominated for an Oscar, was only 54 at the time she looks hideous in dowdy dresses (costume designer Norma Koch won an Oscar for her work), a dreadful wig and clownish pancake makeup. A true horror, she serves up her sister, an uncharacteristically sweet Crawford, a dead rat for dinner, and at one point lays into her, boots and all (the two women were long-standing rivals and did not get along). Even the scenes with Jane’s would-be piano teacher (Victor Buono) and his mother have a creepy quality to them, the whole affair recalling Hitchcock's Psycho, which had been released two years earlier. And therein lies the film’s problem - its persistent monotone unpleasantness, something which particularly given its long running time and the melodramatic staging, wears thins well before its end.




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