Category Archives: joan crawford
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ~ This 1962 campy horror classic from director Robert Aldrich is immortal in the annals of Hollywood. It’s been quoted, parodied (my fave a bit for the MTV Video Awards with Madonna and Courtney Love), remade (one with the Redgrave sisters in 1991, best avoided), shown in revival houses for decades, re-enacted on stage, and is the only pairing of two of the greatest and most infamous Oscar-winning actresses of all time. This film is legend.
Rumors of a Joan Crawford/Bette Davis feud had been fueled for decades by publicists and tabloid journalists so this feature with both of them, in antagonistic roles made for lots of press, even with both actresses in the twilight of their careers. Both had been making B-grade horror flicks of a fashion so a teaming in this manner seemed right. And additionally, both women had a reputation for sometimes taking roles over the top, so a story in which over the top was the rule was indeed perfect.
In the film, alcoholic former child actress Jane Hudson takes care of her paraplegic celebrated actress sister Blanche Hudson. Jane does so because she believes she’s the one who crippled her sister in a long ago accident that ended both their careers. Now years later with the advent of television, Blanche’s movies are getting a bit of a revival, causing jealousy and insanity in Jane. The fun and campy horror only begins there.
Despite the over the top acting of both ladies, it is Bette that rises to the top as the superior actress. While Joan just does a parody of her best melodramatic roles, Bette rocks the screen with what could be camp, but more often than not shows as true performance as a woman snapping from a psychotic break.
Of course, despite the two women involved, the point is not the acting, but the fun of these two trapped on the same screen. This is almost as good as Dracula vs. Frankenstein or King Kong vs. Godzilla. Sometimes Joan’s passive/aggressive technique is every bit as nasty as Bette’s straight out hostility. Truly a battle of giants, this is a fight that must be seen.
Victor Buono stands out from the rest of the small cast, spotlighting his mild-mannered persona as opposed to his frequently seen villainous side. Director Robert Aldritch wisely chose, at Bette Davis’ insistence, that the film be shot in black and white, adding to the horrific atmosphere.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, for both good and bad, is one of my favorite movies. I love it as the quirky horror it was meant to be, and I also love it as the camp comedy it has become over the years. It is my second favorite to MST3K to after The Rocky Horror Picture Show and before the also Joan Crawford themed Mommy Dearest. I love it, and watch it whenever I see that it’s on. Recommended.
I Saw What You Did ~ Back in the old days, before video rentals, before OnDemand, even before cable television, there was only one way to see a particular film – you waited and waited for it to finally show up on standard six channel television. When it was a movie you’d never seen and only heard about, it became sort of an event, and a special memory. I saw The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon this way, and also Mothra and the Matt Helm films. There was a certain mystique to the movies you had to watch and wait for each week by scouring the TV Guide.
The original 1965 (it was later a terrible telemovie in the late 1980s that is best forgotten) version of I Saw What You Did was one of those movies, and in recent times it has been made even rarer by its on-again-off-again video and DVD releasing. In an age where almost everything is available, this is indeed a rare film. It’s a lucky thing that occasionally TCM gives it a run, usually when honoring its star Joan Crawford, or its genius director William Castle.
Its full title gives a bit of a hint what it is really about. Two teenage girls on a sleepover amuse themselves by making random prank phone calls and saying to the answerer, “I Saw What You Did! And I Know Who You Are!” You can imagine the bedlam that ensues when they call the man who has just murdered his wife. There’s the set-up and trademark William Castle hilarity and horror follow. You can understand how the plot of this one can become whispered legend among those watching the TV Guide every week.
In a role originally meant to be only a cameo (although she got top billing and pay) and originally offered to Grayson Hall, later to be known as Dr. Julia Hoffman on “Dark Shadows,” Joan Crawford eats up the screen like the film goddess she was in every scene. Her appearance, dressed for flash in the middle of the night, is kinda odd, but then again she’s Joan Crawford after all. She proves without a doubt she could easily be the kooky neighbor in a sitcom from any age, and do it with pizzazz.
The two girls, and one’s little sister, are terrible, but their kids, so give them a break. John Ireland as the killer is stone-faced and fierce, his looks alone inspiring scares. Some of the shocks and the violence are a bit over the top for the time, and surprising when you think about it in hindsight. It’s not Friday the 13th, but it’s a bit much for 1965. The initial killing is an ironic turn on the shower scene from Psycho and actually quite well done.
This is, despite what others may tell you, William Castle at his best. I love this flick, and watch it whenever it presents itself. Must see for horror fans, movie fans, and camp fans – funny, scary, quirky, what more could you want? So keep a lookout, just like in the old days, for the next time I Saw What You Did airs, it’s worth it.