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Olivia de Havilland,
Aged and wealthy Charlotte Hollis has lived alone and as a recluse in the crumbling family plantation mansion in Hollisport, Louisiana since her father Sam Hollis' death thirty-six years ago. The only people who regularly see her are her hard-as-nails but seemingly loyal housekeeper Velma Crowther, and her longtime friend and physician, Dr. Drew Bayliss. She has lived there the better part of her life except for a short stint in London thirty-seven years ago following the vicious murder of her married lover, John Mayhew, at the plantation's summer house while Sam was hosting one of his legendary grand balls in the mansion. That evening, she and John were going to run off together, that is before he was bludgeoned to death, his right hand and head which were never found. No one was ever convicted for his murder, but most people believe Charlotte did it after John changed his mind about running off with her. Not having seen her in years, they also now believe Charlotte is a crazy old ... Written by
In the scene when Charlotte returns to the house with Miriam after dumping Drew's body Charlotte walks up the steps in her bare feet. The sound track is for shoes clopping up the steps and to the door. See more »
[sternly and coldly]
Go away from me. I'm ill. I'm... very ill. I won't give up one more thing to you... not even one more minute.
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In 1962, when the careers of acting heavyweights such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Olivia De Havilland were beginning to subside as the years took their toll, director Robert Aldrich directed Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, a story of sibling jealousy and sadism that saw Davis and Crawford go head to head. The film was notorious not only for it's brilliance, but for it's genuine rivalry between the film's two leads. The film was a success, and unwittingly gave birth to a new genre that has since become known as 'hagspolitation' or 'psycho-biddy thrillers', a splurge of films that usually portrayed a psychotic older woman played by a 1940-50's superstar. Davis and Crawford were the key players in the sub-genre, and they were both cast by Altman in his next film, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, only for Crawford to drop out due to 'illness', when in reality it was because she just couldn't take Davis' bullying and general nasty behaviour. She was replaced by De Havilland, and although the film doesn't come near to capturing the greatness of Baby Jane, it is still a nice little shocker.
Beginning with a shocking murder that sees a married man who is having an affair with Charlotte (Davis) have his arm and head hacked off with a huge cleaver, the film jumps forward four decades, where the ageing Charlotte lives alone in her giant mansion that is being torn down by city developers. Haunted by the murder of her former lover (for which she may or may not have been the culprit), Charlotte is losing her mind when her cousin Miriam (De Havilland) comes to stay to try and convince her to leave before she is arrested by the developers for failing to leave her home. What follows is Charlotte's fast decent into insanity, but is she being played and manipulated by people after her vast fortune?
The film is a solid horror film with some genuine shocks and extreme gore for its day. Of course, the ever-reliable Bette Davis is superb as the squeaky-voice southern gal seemingly with the mind of an infant. Although the film works well as both a Southern Gothic horror and as a thriller, the film doesn't have the intensity to last out the 2 hours and 15 minute running time and slightly outstays his welcome. But their is solid support from Joseph Cotten, an actor who has never been recognised enough for his excellent body of work, and Agnes Moorehead, another main player in the genre.
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