Mary Poppins Returns
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All Critics (26)
| Top Critics (4)
| Fresh (21)
| Rotten (5)
| DVD (5)
Aldrich piles on a series of scream-in-the-night shocks, the better to batten a script strikingly short of sneakier surprises.
Over the top, of course, and not a lot to it, but it's efficiently directed, beautifully shot (Joseph Biroc), and contains enough scary sequences amid the brooding, tense atmosphere.
So calculated and coldly carpentered is the tale of murder, mayhem and deceit that Mr. Aldrich stages in this mansion that it soon appears grossly contrived, purposely sadistic and brutally sickening.
It was camp before the term was coined, but it's somewhat better than that, too.
[A] heady brew for fans of Hollywood's golden age gone bananas.
This well executed and well acted Gothic horror is Aldrich's follow-up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? which also starred Bette Davis.
Bette Davis in her late, creepy mode...and still effective.
Davis' near-crazed performance being over-the-top but satisfying in a campy way.
Davis has some authentic, poignant moments, before all hell breaks loose.
Director Aldrich's work on Baby Jane was already a study in hysteria, and his style for Charlotte is, if anything, even more ornate.
If it's Grand Guignol you're after, here's where you'll find it.
This film is bonkers ... heady Southern Gothic decadence, histrionics from just about everyone involved, and severed body parts that pop up at the most inopportune times.
Bette Davis as the well past her prime ingenue down Louisiana way still pining for "the one who got away" back in the old cotillion days. DeHavilland is her sensible cousin trying to keep matters that are near hysteria somewhat rational while Joe Cotton is the caring family doctor never far from a bottle of hooch. Only nothing is as it seems to be in this overwrought tour through the moldy Southern gothic. Everyone is obviously having a high old time.
Two years after their huge success with "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962), director Robert Aldrich teamed up once more with Bette Davis to make "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte." The films are so similar that they're often spoken of in the same breath.
They both embody the same type of gothic horror, and both depict two middle-aged women in a battle royale. In "Baby Jane," Davis starred opposite Joan Crawford. (Davis won her 11th and final Oscar nomination for her work in "Jane.") Here it's Olivia de Havilland up against Davis.
Both films also have a campy aspect, making them very popular with middle-aged gay men. But the campiness is not extreme. Straight men fear not: "Jane" and "Charlotte" are serious works of psychological horror that shouldn't be missed. Remember that Aldrich mostly made "guy movies," including "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955), "The Dirty Dozen" (1967), and "The Longest Yard" (1974). Aldrich is no Douglas Sirk.
Charlotte, played by Davis, is a woman who has spent most of her adult life as a recluse, after a gruesome murder occurs when she is about 20. She was having an affair with a married man (a very young Bruce Dern), outraging many people, including her father (Victor Buono, who was also in "Baby Jane") and the man's wife (played beautifully by Mary Astor).
When the man dumps her, Charlotte goes into a tailspin of rage and despair, exclaiming, "I could just kill you!" Ten minutes later, the man is attacked by a maniac with a meat cleaver. The big mystery is, Who killed him? The whole state of Louisiana thinks it was Charlotte, and she is shunned by just about everyone. But the case goes unsolved.
This all happens in the first five minutes, in a very quick overture. The vast majority of the film takes place 40 years after the tragedy. Charlotte, who has barely ever left her gloomy mansion in four decades, struggles to keep her home as the state tries to demolish it to make way for a modern highway. Charlotte's only companion is a maid named Velma (brilliantly played by Agnes Moorehead, who should have gotten a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her work here).
The semi-educated Charlotte asks her big-city cousin (de Havilland) to come back to the old plantation and help save it. Meanwhile, Charlotte is having more frequent delusions, hearing the voice of her long-departed lover in the spooky, gothic mansion at night. Is someone trying to scare her to death or drive her insane? Or is there something supernatural going on in the house? Or is Charlotte just suffering from a guilty conscience?
All I'll say is that the truth is uncovered, and it's startling. "Charlotte" keeps you guessing to the very end and keeps you on the edge of your seat through some rather macabre goings-on. "Charlotte" has a significant body count and many colorful characters.
Davis's performance is at times over-the-top but alway magnetic. Her Charlotte is like a tornado, destroying everything in her path. Like Davis herself, Charlotte is a force of nature. But is she a victim struggling mightily against those trying to torment and kill her, or is she a cold-blooded maniac getting her just comeuppance? And who's going to end up dead?
"So Fucked Up" highlight: the plot twist
I saw this the first time -- or was at least exposed to it -- when I was 4. Parents went to the movies with me and my brother in tow, not realizing what kind of film it was. All I remembered for years was a head rolling down a staircase and a whole lot of screaming. This film could have been the reason I was so scared of horror movies until I was about 15. When I finally saw the whole film as a grown-up, I was surprised on how gruesome it actually is for 1964. Still pretty scary in places too. Good flick.
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