What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Reviews
Deliriously played on center stage; the life of two sisters who fame makes them sinister towards each other. We all know childhood fame can manufacture the most destructive celebs, Lindsey Lohan is every ones favorite example of child-star gone wrong. That's the premise to this film, Bette Davis's character was a child-superstar, with a huge fan-base her stage name was Baby Jane. It amazed me how quickly the film goes through the trivial back-story so quickly, so the film can let the main plot play out with a thriller type plot with horrific outcome. Neatly adapted screenplay from a novel I am sure is just as surprising and sinister as we watch two sister go through a story that shows close relation to Stephen King's Misery, as a envious and jealous sister who's child-star years have drifted like wreckage in the sea, takes out a built-up anger for her crippled sister, who's fame has had a more popular after-life; we watch shockingly as she pushes and torments her sister to death! Will she kill her? Will someone find out whats Baby Jane is doing. Only time will tell in this, psychotic-horror.
With a fine cast, this film needs no help, Opening quickly and to-point; although the ending could had a couple seconds longer, the movie heads into a dysfunctional and deadly relationship of two sister, ultimately leaving behind a frightening film about the essence of jealousy.
Knowing just how bitter the Davis/Crawford rivarly was makes What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? all the more disturbing, and hilarious. Davis apparently kicked Crawford in the head for real in one of the more violent scenes in the film, leaving her with several stitches. Meanwhile Crawford filled her dress with weights in a scene where Davis had to drag her off a bed, causing Davis to pull the muscles in her back. As far as I know both those takes were the ones used in the film so listen out for Davis groaning as she tries to lift an unconscious and extremely heavy Crawford down the hallway.
Despite Davis' brilliant performance, however, there are still a few things that let What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? down. I read a comment from someone on here recently saying that the direction is "lumpy" and "elephantine". I didn't really notice this on first viewing, probably because I was so in awe of the decaying Davis, but a second watch really brought it to the fore. In a way the melodramatic music and direction suit the histrionics of the film but there's no getting away from the fact that some elements are just poorly developed and badly thought out. There are several times, for example, when Blanche could have got help. The relationship between Edwin and Jane also felt confused and underdeveloped; he's too wooden and unnatural in his actions, and more could've been made of him being an Everyman looking in from the outside on Jane's insanity. As the film progresses, Edwin becomes more of a plot device than a character, used to advance and twist certain elements of the story. The sub-plot of him being a struggling musician who still lives with his mother is also pretty weak, and his relationship with his mother is not given enough attention to warrant it being included in the film. Overall a lot of the scenes with Edwin just felt like a needless distraction that took away from the morbidly fascinating relationship between Jane and Blanche.
It's mindboggling that Davis didn't win an Oscar for her role in this film. I haven't seen Dangerous or Jezebel yet (the two films for which she did win an Academy Award) but What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? will take some beating. Its legacy cannot be underestimated; it's spawned numerous clones and hundreds of spoofs over the years but nothing has come close to matching it's campy horror. With all the black humour, hysteria, outrageous make-up and diva antics (both in the film and on set) it's easy to see why it has become such a cult classic in drag culture. Davis' performance is still as fresh and razor sharp as it was in 1962 and, despite a few drawbacks with direction and plot, it deservedly remains a landmark in the psycho-thriller genre.