What's the Matter with Helen? (1971)

GP  |   |  Crime, Musical, Mystery  |  13 April 1972 (Mexico)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 1,083 users  
Reviews: 33 user | 31 critic

Two middle-aged women move to Hollywood, California after their sons are convicted of a notorious murder and open a dance school for children eager to tap their way to stardom.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Adelle Bruckner aka Adelle Stuart
Helen Hill aka Helen Martin
Linc Palmer
Micheál MacLiammóir ...
Hamilton Starr (as Micheal Mac Liammóir)
Sister Alma
Helene Winston ...
Mrs. Greenbaum
Peggy Rea ...
Mrs. Schultz
Logan Ramsey ...
Detective Sgt. West
Paulle Clark ...
Mrs. Plumb
Mrs. Barker
Molly Dodd ...
Mrs. Rigg
Samee Lee Jones ...
Winona Palmer (as Sammee Lee Jones)
Robbi Morgan ...
Rosalie Greenbaum
The Tramp
Swen Swenson ...
The Gigolo


Set in the 30s, Helen and Adelle are two women whose sons commit a gruesome murder. After their conviction, they move to Hollywood change their names and open a dance school for girls. Adelle is looking for a good life and when one of the parents of her students who is wealthy takes a liking to her she thinks she's got it made. Helen thinks that someone who blames them for what their sons did is stalking them. But Adelle thinks it's all in her mind. Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Her friends die so suddenly and violently! See more »


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Release Date:

13 April 1972 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

The Best of Friends  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film began production under the title "The Best of Friends," but Otto Preminger protested to the Motion Picture Association because he had already registered the similar title Such Good Friends (1971). Producer George Edwards quickly responded by changing the title to a line from the script: "What's the Matter with Helen?." See more »


The film is set in 1934 but the songs "Animal Crackers In My Soup" and "Goody-Goody" weren't released until 1935. See more »


Helen Hill: Men can be quite a bit lower than the angels.
See more »


Referenced in Connie and Carla (2004) See more »


Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?
Written by Harry Revel & Mack Gordon
Performed by Debbie Reynolds
See more »

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User Reviews

What's the matter with the script?
5 March 2005 | by (Haddonfield, IL) – See all my reviews

For fans of weird movies and these kinds of Grand Guignol horrors, "What's the Matter With Helen" is very nearly electrifying for about 3/4 of it's running time. Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters are both excellent as a pair of women whose sons have committed a murder. The two of them make an attempt to leave their old life behind and start over again in Hollywood, opening a small dance school and getting some new hairstyles. But someone is out to get them and make their lives miserable, and Shelley is a little off her rocker to begin with. Things go from bad to worse in no time.

There's a lot to love about the movie. The sets are kitschy, as is a lot of the acting. Debbie Reynolds is especially good as her character becomes more and more neurotic. There are also some bizarre song and dance numbers in there, too.

The script unravels in the final act. The resolution of the plot lacks a certain punch that should be there but isn't. It's like a balloon set to burst, and instead someone lets the air out of it just before it goes "pop". The final murder is botched a little, and even the creepy finale can't cover up the fact that the story's explanation is a little weak.

But if you enjoy the rest of the movie as much as I did, you might not even care about that. Definitely a must-see for genre buffs, this has some surprisingly shocking gruesome ideas and more than a little bit of gore.

24 of 30 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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