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On the celebration of the anniversary of Mrs. Taggart, her three dominated sons come to her house for the party. Terry, Henry and Tom Taggart work in construction, in a business that belonged to their father and is presently managed by their manipulative mother. Tom brings his pregnant fiancée Shirley Blair to tell his mother that they will marry each other; Terry brings his wife Karen Taggart and they secretly intend to emigrate to Canada; and Henry is gay and loves to wear women's underwear. During the night, the mean Mrs. Taggart uses the most despicable means and tricks to get rid off Shirley and Terry and keep her sons close to her. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hammer studios are, of course, most famous for their horror productions; but the studio also gave us a number of films from other genres, and The Anniversary is a huge non-horror highlight! This camp and perfectly pitched black comedy is directed by one of the studio's heavyweight directors, Roy Ward Baker and is probably most famous for the fact that it stars the great Bette Davis in the sort of role that made her famous. However, the positive elements don't end there as The Anniversary benefits from a strong script and a varied array of characters that ensure the action is always entertaining and filled with tension. The film is an obvious inspiration for modern hits such as the Danish 'Festen', and works due its claustrophobic setting and well drawn characters. The central plot is brilliantly simple, and follows a family gathering for the anniversary of an overbearing mother and her late husband. She demands the presence of her three sons; a shy cross-dresser, a henpecked father of five and a careless youth who brings a different fiancé to meet his mother every year - and proceeds to rip them to pieces.
Bette Davis is undoubtedly the lead star of this production, and she completely controls every scene she's in; thus giving a huge compliment to the support cast, who all give realistic and interesting performances. Sheila Hancock, Jack Hedley, James Cossins, Christian Roberts and Elaine Taylor provide perfect support for Davis, and the combined cast give credibility to a script that could have ended up giving way to a comical film. The film is based on a stage play by Bill MacIlwraith, and perhaps the best thing about his writing is the way he manages to bring out traits from the vindictive matriarch in all three of her sons. As you'd expect, it's Bette Davis who gets the best lines and seeing the great actress have fun delivering them is brilliantly entertaining and ensures that the black comedy elements always shine through. The central setting - the parental home - makes up the backbone of the story and is an ingenious place for the story to take place, as we're always aware that the support characters are very much in Davis' domain and the fact that most of the action takes place under one roof means that claustrophobia is a big part of the story. This film may be avoided by some Hammer fans who are only interested in the horror - but it really shouldn't be. I don't hesitate to name this as one of the very best films Hammer ever made and it comes highly recommended to all!
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