The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) *** ½

Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) used to be a child star in vaudeville while her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) watched idly in the wings. In later years, Blanche became a big movie star, a fact that Jane resented. One night, Jane runs Blanche over in her car, paralyzing her from the waist down. Years later, they live together in a rundown house. Jane is basically Blanche’s servant, which she resents even more than the whole fame thing. Jane is also becoming more and more mentally unstable. She becomes increasingly cruel to Blanche, serving her dead animals at dinner and locking her up in her room. When Jane has a gentleman caller (Victor Buono), she thinks that Blanche will get in the way of their happiness. It all eventually ends in madness and murder.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is a great female-driven horror movie that is full of shocks and fun. The two leads are incredible together and you can see their off screen disdain for one another seeping through; which adds to their characters. Crawford is really terrific as the mousy, put-upon Blanche who still puts up with her sister’s behavior out of guilt and obligation. But it is Davis who steals the picture as the nutty Jane. Dressed in crazy costumes and caked in ghoulish make-up, Baby Jane Hudson is one of the most underrated psychos in screen history.

It’s hard not to be unsettled during the scenes of an aging Davis dressed like a child and singing deliriously. (It reminds me of the Lady in the Radiator scenes in Eraserhead.) The scene in which she imagines her doll singing to her is especially creepy. And it’s amazing how much suspense director Robert Aldrich is able to wring out of the scenario. (Stephen King pretty much ripped off a lot of this flick for Misery.) The scene with the rat is a classic, but the murder of the maid is something Hitchcock would’ve been proud of.

The film does have its flaws. Some (but not all) of the interludes with Victor Buono don’t work. And once the action leaves the house in the third act, the flick suffers. (The scenes on the beach go on way too long.) But despite a few quibbles, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is a real winner.

Aldrich later reteamed with Davis for Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Next week’s Clayton Classic: One Touch of Venus.

Tags: horror, w
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