Bette Davis plays Bette Davis not once but twice in this over-the-top story of a sister who kills and then replaces her twin. The result is a thoroughly far-fetched and yet somewhat predictable thriller that succeeds in being a tremendous amount of fun.
Karl Malden and Peter Lawford fill out the cast, but the film belongs to Davis, and she clearly relishes the film's every excess, owning the script like a tailor-made gown. Indeed, much of the pleasure in watching DEAD RINGERS is the fun of seeing Davis play with such little restraint, and the movie makes use of every Davis mannerism imaginable.
This movie will never make any critic's short list, and over her long career Davis certainly made a great many finer films and gave a great many more artful performances. But as a late-night popcorn fest for Bette Davis fans, DEAD RINGERS is hard to beat.
This is the second time Bette co-starred with herself; the first time was in "A Stolen Life"; however, do not look for that sort of quality here...the poor sister of the rich sister, Bette kills off her richer sibling and adopts her persona, and moves from her tawdry digs into the magnificent mansion in Beverly Hills. (The old Doheny estate, and the location for "Cinderfella" and "The Loved One.")
I enjoy Peter Lawford in anything, a truly underappreciated actor and a really nice man. He is enjoyably slimy in this role, and adds the right note for the jaded, rather tired boyfriend. Karl Malden is sad, and you feel sorry for him;; he was so devoted to the poor sister...the star of the show is Ms. Davis, and the fabulous house and grounds. Don't look for high, quality drama here, but rather, an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday night.
(NOTE: The Doheny estate, built in the early 1920s, is specatacular, and boasts several streets with signs for it's 25 acres of grounds, and it has a children's playhouse with fireplace and kitchen, etc., that rivals anything I've ever seen...and three guest houses, larger and more magnificent than most mansions! Also a bowling alley, a real movie theatre and over 30 bedrooms in the servants quarters. There was murder there, around 1929, the father caught his son with the butler, and shot and killed him; the son was put away in an asylum. Quite a history, and quite a setting...)
on March 27, 2009
I have to admit I am an ardent Bette Davis fan. The first film of hers I ever saw was "Whatever Happened To baby Jane?" on late-night TV years ago, and I fell in love with her. I can't say I admire her like I do Joan Crawford, but Bette comes pretty close.
I've been lucky to pretty much see all her films over the years, but I really like her 1960's stuff the best; perhaps its watching how Miss Davis tears up the scenery, as well as her co-stars that makes me such a Bette fan, but I do believe a lot of her later motion pictures are underated and often ignored. These films, often known by some critics as "hag-films", are true classics. Bette, along with Joan, had one of the longest careers in pictures, and how they managed to survive, in an industry that swallows careers and actresses at whim, is a testament to how good they were at their profession.
"Dead Ringer" is well acted, directed, and superbly cast. In it we see Bette playing twin sisters, one good, one bad. One sister steals the identity of the other in order to live her ellegant lifestyle to the fullest. There are many plot twists and turns to satisfy the most ardent viewer, and the film flys by fast. Karl Malden has a secondary role as one of Bette's boyfriends, and Peter Lawford plays one of the best villins in '60s films.
Sit back and enjoy a good Bette Davis potboiler.
The film is beautifully restored and the DVD features an informative documentary on the movie. Author Boze Hadleigh is interviewed and offers some insightful info on "Dead Ringer" and Bette Davis. If you think Bette was good in "Baby Jane" wait until you see her in this one!
on August 9, 2004
If ever there were a movie equivalent of what Susan Sontag called Camp many years ago...this is it. Bette Davis stars as twins: one the rich, Champagne-driven, mansion living Margaret DeLorca, the other "Injun Country" area of Los Angeles (really Echo Park) living, beer guzzling, Karl Malden (Hobbson) loving Edith Phillips. Margaret is the bad twin, Edith the nice. But Edith is still holding a grudge against Margaret for stealing her man many years before and she aims to set things right, twenty years later.
Davis chews up the scenery as only she can when given full rein of her performance and her director, Paul Henreid, who starred with her in "Now Voyager" knew better than to get in her way.
"Dead Ringer" is a hell-of-a-lot-of-fun and the commentary from Charles Busch is appropriately outrageous. This is a movie that both you and your Mom can love: twist the top off a quart of Schlitz, bake up some Velveeta Mac `n' Cheese, get out two spoons and enjoy every morsel of this delicious movie.
on August 10, 2005
The juicy thriller "Dead Ringer", is a personal favourite of mine and is a classic example of that curious genre that involved veteran performers appearing in macabre stories which sprung up in the early 1960's as a result of the sensational box office success of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?". The films made in the wake of Baby Jane's success were to provide many veteran actresses and actors such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Ray Milland, with meaty leading roles in lower budgeted thrillers and horror stories for the rest of that decade. Whatever failings these films may possess critically they are still immensely entertaining and certainly gave the veteran actors involved a new lease of life career wise at the time. I believe that "Dead Ringer", starring the legendary Bette Davis in the dual roles of two long estranged identical sisters caught up in a web of envy, intrigue, deception and finally murder is one of the best of the cycle. Produced by Warner Bros., the studio where Davis was once the undisputed Queen in the 1930's and 40's, "Dead Ringer", has an irresistably expensive look to it and is the ultimate star vehicle for the ageing Davis where she gets the unique opportunity to act opposite herself. "Dead Ringer", and "Baby Jane", began a flurry of work for Davis for the next ten years in films of varying quality such as the Grand Guignol gems "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte", in 1964 and "The Nanny" in 1965 through to the truly bizarre "The Anniversary", in 1968. "Dead Ringer", however is one of the more intriguing efforts in this genre and Bette Davis as always gives her all in her dual roles.
Based on a story by Rian James, "Dead Ringer", stars legend Bette Davis in the dual role of Margaret DeLorca/Edith Phillips, two long estranged sisters who are suddenly brought together at the funeral of Margaret's husband Frank. It is far from a happy reunion as the sisters have a long smouldering emnity for each other ever since Margaret stole Frank away from Edith on the excuse that Frank had got her pregnant. Not helping the situation is the fact that while Margaret went on to lead a glittering life enjoying the DeLorca millions , Edith remained unmarried and struggled to earn a living running a heavily in debt cocktail lounge in a seedy part of San Francisco. Margaret makes some very patronising amends by offering Edith cast off clothes back at the house after the funeral however the bitter Edith begins to form a deadly plan of her own when she discovers from the family chaffeur on the drive home that there was no child and that Margaret had deceived her to get Frank fo rherself. Enraged over having her whole life ruined by her sister Edith calls Margaret to her home that evening and then murders her sister and cutting he rhair and taking her clothes assumes her sister's identity back at the DeLorca mansion. However things dont go as smoothly as Edith first thought as she has to get used to strange surroundings, new people, and worst of all a very unexpected and eventually troublesome "boyfriend" in Margaret's secret lover Tony Collins (Peter Lawford). Edith finds herself drawn further into a frightening world of black mail when she discovers that Margaret and Tony actually murdered Frank and that Tony has discovered her masquerade and wants to be paid off. Edith's beau, well meaning Sergeant Jim Hobbson (Karl Malden), also begins to become suspicious and when Frank's body is exhumed and he is discovered to have died from poisoning the net closes in around Edith. Edith is successful in getting Tony out of the way when he is savaged by the family dog but her problems escalate when Edith then finds herself up on a murder charge for the crime her sister had commited. Not wanting to ruin Jim's loving impression of her Edith keeps up the charade of actually being Margaret who is condemmed to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin and she kindly allows Jim to believe it was Edith who died back at the house and not Margaret as she goes off with the police to be executed.
"Twice the terror as murderous twins!", cried the trade papers about Bette Davis at the time of the release of "Dead Ringer", however never could this film be termed a true horror effort as it is more a psychological thriller with Gothic overtones to it. Despite the time period it was made in "Dead Ringer" closely resembles one of those old star vehicles from the 1930's which had the lead actress centre stage throughout the proceedings. Despite it's short comings in the story department this is a Bette Davis show all the way and Davis handles the work where she is seemingly acting with her double very well. This was the second time she had played identical twins involved in murder, the first time being back in 1946 in "A Stolen Life". She manages extremely well in giving both Margaret and Edith very distinct personalities and mannerisms and her scenes where she is playing Edith after she murders her sister and is trying to adjust to Margaret's lifestyle at the mansion are especially good. Considering the Davis powerhhouse at centre stage it is amazing that there are some other interesting performances in this film especially Peter Lawford as the boozy, black mailing boyfriend of Margaret's who cottons on to Edith's deception and wants his share of the goodies. His work with Davis as he begins to blackmail her character is especially noteworthy and creates alot of the dramatic tension in the second half of the story as Edith's plan begins to unravel. Karl Malden as Edith's ever loyal fiancee who by his investigation unknowingly signs his beloved Edith's death warrant thinking she is Margaret is also effective in his playing and both Jean Hagen as flighty socialite Dede Marshall and especially veteran actress Estelle Winwood as the religious zealot Dona Anna make great impressions with their limited screen time. "Dead Ringer", boasts very high production values which gives this "B" grade story a style which is quite unexpected. The use of the luxurious Doheny Estate for the exterior shots is a superb choice and gives those scenes shot there an expensive look and feel so important in creating the vast difference in the fortunes of Edith and Margaret. The musical score by Andre Previn is also a great favourite of mine and is excellently chosen and incorporated into the action creating alternately eerie and oppressive feelings through the course of the film. Interestingly "Dead Ringer", is directed by Bette Davis' old "Now Voyager" co star Paul Henreid. While he might seem a strange choice for the directing duties his direction here is spot on as he lets the action move along at a leisurely pace building in tension and complexity as the story develops. He wisely allows the characters of the two sisters to be fully mapped out which allows much of the drama of when Edith pretends to be Margaret to have its own built in tension.
Glossy star vehicles for ageing actresses really are an extinct species in present day Hollywood where no one ever seems to be over 35 years of age. Thankfully the fluke success of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", allowed many actresses from the 1930's and 40's to keep working in similiar roles. Regardless of how the material in these films was viewed critically Bette Davis was never less than compelling on screen and she certainly displays all of her star quality here in "Dead Ringer" turning a fairly ordinary little thriller into something you can enjoy time and again. Passed off by many as camp fluff never to be taken seriously I instead enjoy the film and Bette Davis' performance in particular more from the point of it being from that last period of the fast disappearing studio system in he early 1960's that still saw studios tailoring vehicles for particular actors and actresses and managing to give even relatively low budget efforts such as this a gloss and sheen unheard of in the "New Hollywood", of the 1970's onwards. Enjoy Bette Davis playing twin sisters on a collison course of hatred, deception and murder in the stylish Grand Guignol thriller "Dead Ringer".
on September 19, 2014
The film, plot and history have been described in detail here by other reviewers so I will refrain from repeating what's been parroted.
The bonus features for rhe blu-ray look appealing in concept but greatly disappoint in execution.
Double Take: A Conversation with Boze Hadleigh is brief and concise but ridiculously dry and devoid of any wit and does not entice the casual viewer or a novice of the film into wanting to watch the movie. Some rare and candid still photos on the set of Dead Ringer are included and the place of the movie in Bette's career as well as its relevance to Davis' legacy is given proper notes. To its credit, the feature admirably points out that Dead Ringer provides fans of Bette Davis a chance to overdose on all the trademarks associated with Davis and also references film reviews at the time that non-Davis fans will loathe the film for the same reasons.
The commentary with Hadleigh and Charles Bush is a complete failure. Bush, who with John Epperson delivered sparkling commentary on the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? release, tries his best to act as a true lover of the movie and seemingly wants to engage Hadleigh in a similar commentary recalling repartee with Epperson is in a losing battle in this pairing. Hadleigh seems more focused on reciting the most mundane and obscure facts about the irrelevant careers of minor the supporting cast, locations and sets that have little to no bearing on the film. Much of the commentary seems to be readings culled from fact sheets and reference guides while Hadleigh interacts very little with Bush and rarely with the action on screen whereas Bush does seem more in tune with the film as its happening but can not serm to bring Hadleigh along for the ride.
Behind the Scenes at Doheny Mansion is merely a stand alone tack-on feature that is only about the history of the mansion and seems included here because the movie was largely filmed there.
The movie itself is beautifully preserved. Overall, a good effort at giving a Bette Davis B-movie the blu-ray bells and whistles treatment.
on May 23, 2006
Dead Ringer is a sensational thriller starring Bette Davis in a dual role as twin sisters Edith and Margaret. Edith is poor, while Margaret is loaded, having married into wealth. Trouble is that Margaret's wealthy husband was once Edith's first love, and when the sisters meet at his funeral after a decade of silence, sparks beging to fly again, and Edie plots a fiendish scheme to escape from her unhappy and debt-ridden life.
If you don't know the film, and have not heard much about the plot, you are in for a treat. This is a first class, highly entertaining thriller. For a black and white Hollywood star vehicle from 1964, the movie still stands up strong today with a plot that keeps you gripped from the moment the wheels of crime start turning, until the bitter end - and it's bitter, believe me! Bette Davis makes a real feast of her dual role, and the effects that keep her on screen as both sisters at the same time are flawless. I was scrutinizing the screen to spot the joins on some occasions, but completely failed. Davis also skilfully makes herself into two different personalities, showing why she is considered to be one of the greats of the Hollywood golden age. True, at this point in her career some of her subtlety had gone, and the familiar Baby Jane screech is in full effect, but she still does a great job, constantly smoking like a chimney as Edie (amusingly lectured by the other sister at one point, that smoking is unhealthy!), and throwing juicy insults around. Although the direction and cinematography are fairly mundane, Davis' performance makes the film shine. You can practically see the machinations of Edie's mind as she starts to flounder among the constant stream of obstacles that threaten to sabotage her plan, and its great fun to watch her. There are good performances all round from the rest of the cast as well, plus some fantastic surprise twists in the plot, so do yourself a big favour and avoid reading any plot summaries before you watch it.
It may only be Saturday matinee entertainment now, or a filler DVD for a rainy afternoon, but Dead Ringer will keep you hooked right through to the end if you give it your time, and there's no shortage of films around even today today that can't beat that.
on October 25, 2011
This movie is the second time that Bette Davis plays twin sisters who are at odds with one another, due to the one twin's greedy appetite and distorted sense of entitlement to acquire EVERYTHING and ANYONE she wants, despite the feelings of others.
The first time out, this movie was titled, "A Stolen Life"; that version is mild. On this go-round, the title "Dead Ringer" has more than an ominous meaning; it is a tale that proves that anger and revenge never yield anything good... It is a must see movie, and will have you biting your fingernails figuring out how this story will turn out! And seeing Bette Davis portray two separate individuals was excellently done. The side by sides of the twin sisters is well crafted; considering all of the special effects technology that is available today. Also, Karl Malden plays a gentleman like no other in this movie! This second time around is worth every minute of viewing!
on May 3, 2015
You cannot go wrong purchasing any Bette Davis film! She is a consummate actress and will draw you in regardless of the story being told! As a teen, I was first introduced to this unique actress through Dead Ringer and have been hooked ever since! My top 3 Bette Davis faves are Dead Ringer, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. I never tire of watching these 3 films, and can honestly say that I cannot choose which of these 3 is at the top of my list--They are ALL 3 that engrossing!
on December 18, 2014
This is the last of the "Bette Davis Warner Style Melodrama" made, and it being filmed as late as 1964, in-between her last Warner contract picture, 1949s "Beyond the Forrest" through the 1950s hits and misses, and following the bizarrely weird embarrassment of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" in 1962 (a pathetically sad preview of projects to come for both Davis and Crawford), but "Dead Ringer" was a Davis picture that she had become best known and popular a generation earlier, and only updated for the mid-60s movie goers, it was pure Davis from start to finish, using every trick in her book of over the top acting, mannerisms she could call her own, and a characteristic style that no one else could get away with; aside from a few of the better female impersonators who made careers of good natured ribbing. Or, as the case most often turned out to be, they were honoring her, far from making fun at her expense. This being said of Miss Davis, she gives a first rate character performance, when eating up the scenery, chewing out the often unintentionally funny dialog, or was it unintentional humor, with Bette Davis you could never be quite sure what she was up to.
A rather old take on twin sisters, one marries into wealth at the time of the second world war, to the other sister's boyfriend by claiming she was pregnant, and the other rather frumpy, poor, downtown LA bar on the brink of being lost to the bank for months worth of back rent, the poor sister comes up with a plan to murder her rich sister and take her place, knowing practically nothing at all about this twin she has not seen or heard from in over 20 years, just how this plan is expected to be pulled off is just one of those bothersome story details that are best not thought of. But, this is for the better part a very good movie with plenty of plot twists, wonderful situations, if nearly impossible to take serious in there implausibility, reason and belief must be suspended, or thrown out the window completely on many an occasion, otherwise this film falls into the cinematic crack that divides a good entertainment piece from a weird camp classic.)