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In self-defense for this fiasco, writer-director Larry Cohen pointed out
that, while every one else in the last years of her life were handing
Davis yet another meaningless award, he offered her the thing she sought
most: work. Fair enough. But as it proved when this was new, I believe
will increasingly show this employment opportunity for Bette Davis was the
equivalent of offering a starving man a meal of coffee grounds and egg
David died of cancer in October 1989, and the illness was plainly visible on her in her few scenes here. It is mournfully painful to watch her skeletal appearance in `Wicked Stepmother' if you loved her.
Avoid this aggressively. If you liked Davis's 'old-lady' period and want to watch a dignified 'good-bye' movie, seek the warm and bittersweet Lindsay Anderson drama, "The Whales of August" (1987) in which she co-starred with Lillian Gish. It is not only a classy farewell to those two legends, but now Ann Sothern and Vincent Price as well.
Sadly this film has been trashed over and over. But Bette Davis
actually saves this movie from being totally forgotten. It was our last
opportunity to see her act before her passing in Oct 1989. She doesn't
look anywhere near as bad as she thought she did; in the scene where
she meets her new step-grandson, she looks very effective in her white
It has it's funny moments, Bette is both dry and witty in her principal scenes and I'd love to see it out on DVD. I gave it 8 out of 10. No problems with the production design nor direction. Cohen made a courageous attempt to put together a quick fix storyline after Bette Davis walked out after one week's filming and I salute him for giving Bette a final opportunity to appear on screen. She's wonderful in her too few scenes. A complete riot. If only it could have been completed, this would have been quite a comedy.
Thanks to the cast and crew for working on this film after the difficulties. If they hadn't, we'd never have seen the scene's Bette did film.
I liked it!
Probably had Bette Davis been in better health and actually finished
the film as planned Wicked Stepmother might have been a reasonably good
black comedy about the occult. As it was with her walking out of the
film for reasons of health I suspect we get both an incoherent story
and only about 15 minutes of Bette Davis.
As it was she could have and should have took her final cinema curtain call with the wonderful Whales Of August. It's not as bad a valedictory as Cuban Rebel Girl with her old fellow Warner Brothers player Errol Flynn, but it's still a mess. And Bette looked positively terrible in her scenes.
Detective Tom Bosley is on the trail of a witch who ingratiates herself in a family, loots it and then does something to them for her amusement. In the case Bosley is on they're turned into puppetoons and are found in a shoe box.
His quarry has moved on to another family and vacationing Colleen Camp and David Rasche come home and find that her father Lionel Stander is now married again to Bette Davis. Things start happening to all of them even their son Shawn Donohue as the witch switches back and forth from Davis to Barbara Carrera with Stander not noticing or figuring how lucky can an old guy get. Camp sees her family being torn away from her and she's not taking it lying down.
Not only is this Bette Davis's farewell to the big screen, but also Evelyn Keyes who plays the owner of a shop on the occult who gives lessons in magic. Both Camp and Bosley get a crash course.
Wicked Stepmother is funny in spots and the climax is nicely done, but maybe if some insurmountable problems hadn't occurred we might have seen a better film.
Wicked Stepmother (1989)
* (out of 4)
Bette Davis, like so many other great actors and actresses, ended her career with a really embarrassing film. Depend on who you believe, Davis walked off the film after a week due to her not liking the screenplay, or, according to director Cohen, she was in such bad health that she had to walk off. Either way the film centers on a witch (Davis) who moves in with a family (Colleen Camp, David Rasche) and soon starts to take over the house. Her daughter (Barbara Carrera) then comes to stay and more trouble follows. The truth behind why Davis left this production will never be known but I seriously doubt the film would have turned out very good either way. Cohen, best known for various horror movies, doesn't have too much to work with his as his screenplay undoubtedly had to be rewritten with the daughter aspect added in. Some would say Davis walking off the film would ruin it all around but even the stuff she's in doesn't appear to be written overly well. We get a few campy moments because it's rather strange seeing someone like Davis doing a movie like this. She is over acting quite a lot but if she was really unhappy with the screenplay, I kept wondering if she was giving a bad performance on purpose. The comedy falls flat on its face but I must admit that there's some weird charm with the way Davis is delivering her lines. The supporting cast are all pretty bland and doesn't bring any energy to the film. Tom Bosley is pretty bad as a detective. Even with Davis walking off the film there's no excuse for all the other issues with the movie. This includes it not really knowing what it's trying to do because on one hand it tries to come off as a kids movie but then we'll have another scene, like the sex scene between the witch and the married father, which seems out of place. I find it shocking that the movie got a theatrical release because it looks like a TV movie at best and that might be an insult to TV movies. Fans of Davis might want to check this out just to see her final film but others should stay far, far away unless you're a fan of bad movies.
I love this movie! It is funny, full of inside jokes, and Richard Moll is GREAT of course. Most people hate it, but I love it. You could say it's a guilty pleasure of mine, but I wouldn't say that because I don't feel guilty at all for loving it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I got a kick out of this movie. It is a campy comedy satire. These
other reviews are out of line. They are inappropriately trying to
compare Mad Magazine to Shakespeare. Mad Magazine is enjoyably humorous
entertainment but is in a completely different category than
This movie is cute and funny like one of Leslie Nielson's comedies. It is a low budget film but has a campy appeal and a lot of cute humor. This film also has a notable cast. It not only has Bette Davis, but it also has the glamorous Barbara Carrera (of James Bond film fame and costarred with JR Ewing on Dallas) and Evelyn Keyes (Scarlett O'Hara's sister Sue Ellen on Gone with the Wind) and Tom Bosley.
These reviewers seem to think Bette was blindsided by some evil director. Bette read the script before she decided to do the movie. She had plenty of experience on how to turn down films. She was emaciated from cancer and at extreme age and hampered by lingering problems from strokes. It was quite obvious that she was dying from cancer. Her film options were limited at this point. She knew this when she accepted the role but her expectations were also unrealistic.
She loved acting in films and this was the only offer she had at the time. She was a great actress and had been treated as Hollywood Royalty. But Bette didn't understand that you can't walk into Motel 6 and expect to find the Waldorf. She was accustomed to great directors, great producers, professional crews and high budget productions and set herself up for disappointment by expecting the same levels of professionalism from low budget productions. Thus, when her expectations were not met, she left the production which placed undue hardship on them since she had not completed filming her role. Our reviewers are also forgetting that you can't compare a low budget campy film to a production like Jezebel. These are unrealistic expectations and unfair to the movie.
Her expectations of the highest levels of professionalism in film had always created the potential for conflict and disappointment for her during her career when film productions which did not measure up to those standards which included her expectations of the attitudes and behaviors of other members of the cast, crews, directors, producers, etc. Bette was offended by unprofessionalism. However, like the reviewers who made hateful comments about this movie, she had similar unrealistic expectations.
I'm glad the director was able to salvage Bette's performance by reworking the movie. I'm sure it would have been much better in quality if he had a better budget and didn't have to work around Bette's unfinished filming. There was room for improvement, but I still enjoyed it. It was cute and it gave us an opportunity to see some of Bette's final scenes of acting. It was a window into the latter moments of her life.
There is some bad acting in this film by Colleen Camp who played the daughter. Her acting was grossly overdone with downright absurd hand gestures and bizarre, loud, obnoxious overacting. It reminded me of Jim Carey's bizarre physical antics, gestures and facial expressions with nonsensical overacting. Colleen was the one who ruined this movie and her bad acting looks deliberate. If you watch closely, you can see how she went out of her way to overpower and ruin the scenes and lines for other actors. Watch what she does while other actors are trying to say their lines. She purposely tries to ruin the scene and drown out the other actors. No one could be that bad by accident with the exception of Richard Moll (also in this movie). If the two of them had been recast, it would have been an immense improvement. Just about anyone could have done better. That is my only complaint with the director, that he did not fire Camp and Moll. But at least Moll did not try to deliberately destroy the scenes of other actors like Colleen. He only ruined his own scenes, which could easily be edited out.
As for the writer... he couldn't make up his mind whether Priscilla and Miranda were the same person or two separate entities. It kept changing back and forth and you have to wonder if there was any sobriety while he was writing that dialogue. This could have easily been fixed. In fact, with a little creative editing, these dialogue errors as well as Colleen and Molls bad acting could be edited, cleaned up and trimmed down to reduce the damage they did. A little creative editing and CGI effects could fix all of the problems and then re-release it.
As long as you don't have unrealistic expectations and understand this is a low budget satire which had to salvage the movie from a partial, incomplete filming of her role, it is actually an entertaining movie. "Low Budget" is often misused as a dirty word in movies but it is not the fault of the director or cast that they were unable to obtain better funding. It does not mean it is a bad movie. It only refers to what they were able to afford in sets, actors and equipment where the story might be quite good.
This is a cute movie which is no worse than Chevy Chase's movie "Modern Problems" or Goldie Hawn's movies or John Ritter's movies or Tom Hanks in "The Money Pit," etc. Those were all satires which did not have high budgets. Comedies rarely get high budgets. So, if you like campy satires and don't have an HUA problem, you might enjoy this cute and campy film. I know I did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WICKED STEPMOTHER is the kind of movie that happens to an actor who
cannot understand that his or her time has passed, and that encroaching
illness and the approximation of death should be an indicative that
maybe it would be best to relax and enjoy the accolades,
retrospectives, and lifetime achievement awards.
Bette Davis was coming off the mild success of THE WHALES OF AUGUST when she decided to do this movie about a witch who moves into a family's home and causes havoc there. Severely ill, barely able to remember her lines, and frail as a leaf about to fall from its branch in the middle of fall, she was forced to step out of filming only a week after production on the movie began.
Surprisingly enough, she claimed problems with the script among other things, making it clear that old age and illness had not mellowed her character one bit. What she seemed unable to understand that this sort of demands which she had been known for back in her prime was supremely out of style by now, and for an actress of her stature to assume she could throw her ego around just because, was pushing it a little.
Hence, her scenes remain in this movie and should have probably been either deleted and replaced with another actress. I can only assume that the director did not have the money to replace Davis, and decided to keep her character and have Barbara Carrera step in, adding a ludicrous set-up that would explain Davis' absence from the movie. As it is, WICKED STEPMOTHER remains as Bette Davis' last film, one that can be bypassed as an gargantuan error on her behalf.
Jenny is the last of the real Stepford house-wives. She's no millionaire,
but she certainly doesn't have to work for herself. So one day, the stress
of sitting at home and riding her bike and going to therapy has forced her
to take a vacation. When she arrives home with successful husband, she
discovers that her worst nightmare has come true... her widowed father has
married a witch. She's no Freddy, but she's a real pain in the knife who
sets herself to re-arranging the house to spite her new step-daughter. Then
things really get wicked when her hot-to-trot daughter drops in for a
visit... and to take Jenny's man away from her. So, Jenny sees no other
alternative but to fight fire with fire.
One of the cheesiest and corniest of Larry Cohen's horror-comedies, this is sheer silly entertainment at it's best. Colleen Camp has the most trouble getting her lines to come out with feeling, but she sounds very stiff. She's a horrible actress. Bette Davis is surprisingly outrageous for a few minutes as Priscilla, the wicked step-mother, giving us the middle finger and saying the word "sex" more times than she probably has in every one of her previous films combined. The best part, this is a wicked movie in my opinion, is the scene where Sam plays Winners & Losers with Vanilla- the Vanna White inspired showgirl who hates poverty. Richard Moll is a riot as the private investigator! See Wicked Stepmother, and trust me, you've never seen anything like it.
**1/2 out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just the fact that it's Bette's last film is worth releasing it to DVD, maybe there is some extra's that the director has of Bette. I admit it's not the best movie but it is a little campy and fun to watch. And I respect Bette for acting up until she died. also Colleen Camp is awesome and did a lot of cool movies in the 80's...'Valley Girl' & 'Clue' anyways...I'd buy it if came out on DVD...of course I'm a Bette Davis fan and to all the the negative people making comment's "She'll take a tumble on you, role you like you were dice until you come up Blue...She's Got Bette Davis Eyes" ....well the movie is worth seeing for her alone and I to wish she was in it more but at least they kept her scenes and it's funny with some of the cracks like the Joan Crawford picture & when she's on the phone and there's a huge picture of Bette from the 1940's on the side of the wall. those are timely stuff knowing this was her last film.
For starters, I am not familiar with Bete Davis. But I would prefer her to
stick with the shootings, because she suited the role she was intended for
and acts really good.
"Wicked stepmother" is funnier than most of silly comedy/horror, is quite fast and has funny but effective special effects.
This bad-review-bombing isn't deserved by this little flick that doesn't even for one minute take itself seriously! But I suppose this is because of Bete Davis fame who finally didn't get on with the production people - which resulted in the silly plot change.
I would sure like it most with Bete Davis (Miranda) starring (I also love the cat!), having no Priscilla in it - but then again: it's good as is.
B-movie/stupid horror/thriller-comedy fans, sit down and GIVE IT A WATCH because it is worth it. And don't forget the beer!
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