6.4/10
1,447
38 user 41 critic

What's the Matter with Helen? (1971)

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.

Director:

Curtis Harrington

Writer:

Henry Farrell
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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

Taglines:

Why are they all dying so violently?... even the little rabbits! See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some violence/bloody images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 April 1972 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

The Box Step See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Piano music with Ginger Rogers on the cover for "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" from "Gold Diggers of 1933" can be spotted on the piano. See more »

Goofs

There's a bible on the desk to the left of Helen as she talks to the detective and clasps her hands together. Suddenly her hands are outstretched across the desk and the bible's in the center. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

References The Sign of the Cross (1932) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh, You Nasty Man
Written by Ray Henderson, Jack Yellen & Irving Caesar
Performed by Robbi Morgan
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Shelley Winters gone wild
16 January 2005 | by ThrownMuseSee all my reviews

The sons of two very different women are convicted of murder. Fearing for their safety in their small town in 1930s America, star-obsessed Adelle (Debbie Reynolds) decides to get a fresh new start in Hollywood, and convinces the quiet and religious Helen (Shelley Winters) to join her. They exploit the Shirley Temple craze by running a successful instructional school that teaches child actresses singing and dancing. Things seem to be going well for both until Helen starts to have crazed flashbacks about her "former life." But things have never looked better for Adelle, so What the hell is the matter with Helen?!

This movie is a hoot! Debbie Reynolds looks like a classic Hollywood starlet (fantastic costumes and makeup), and it is hilarious and sickening fun watching Shelley Winters in a downward spiral. Agnes Moorehead has an amusing cameo as a Radio evangelist with whom Helen becomes obsessed. The major drawback of the movie is the musical sequences. There are several, and while they do serve as a contrast to the more explicitly twisted elements in the film, showing entire song and dance routines is unnecessary (the scene where Reynolds tap-dances comes to mind here). It is also unfortunate that the film does not take advantage of the themes it presents. A deeper exploration of Helen's psychosis might have proved fascinating, scary, and even amusing.

Overall, What's the Matter with Helen? is an entertaining psychological horror/thriller that does its job but gets weighed down by filler drama and musical sequences. Recommended to fans of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" and anyone who entertained by Shelley Winters going crazy. My Rating: 6/10.


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