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This is the tale of a wealthy southern spinster Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) who lives with her eccentric maid (Agnes Moorehead) in a decaying southern mansion, shunned by the townsfolk after the mysterious axe-murder of her late lover. When her jealous cousin (Olivia de Havilland) and her cousin's wily husband (Cotton) arrive for a visit, the two conspire to drive Charlotte insane and have her commited so the two can sell off her estate and pocket the proceeds.
Whew!!! Here's a great film that took ages to finaly make it to the DVD format. Hey Fox, what took you guys so long?! Oh well, it doesn't matter. At least it's finally here.
This is the film that single-handedly transformed my perception of what an "old" film could be. I remember when I was thirteen years old (1996) and I caught this one on AMC on a stormy evening. By the fantastic staircase confrontation scene between Velma (Agnes Moorehead) and the sinister Cousin Miriam (Olivia DeHavilland, the movie had absolutely grabbed me by the eyeballs and wouldn't let go. I was captivated. I've had a lifelong love affair with older suspense films such as this one ever since, and this particular masterpiece is still my all-time favorite film.
If you've got a young person in your family who wonders why people are always talking about the "Golden Age" of film, you just pop this baby into the DVD player and let those young'uns learn a thing or two. If they're anything like me, they'll fall in love.
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My initiation into the wonderful world of Bette Davis was at the age of eight, when I begged my father to take me to see "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" at the Center Theater in Sunnyside. I just figured it was a "horror" movie. Well, seeing Bette Davis and company, it was love at first sight! "Charlotte" boasts a cast of "old vets" chewing up the scenery as if their lives depended on it. Miss Davis storms and rages and descends into near-madness as only she could, Olivia DeHavilland, who is a very fine and diversified actress, portrays Bette's sugar-coated rattlesnake of a cousin in a most convincing manner, and Agnes Moorehead-well, what can I say? Her slovenly, white-trash Velma Crother is a sight to behold-the woman was a scene-stealer. Add to this witch's brew an oily Joseph Cotten, the grand Mary Astor, Victor Buono, George Kennedy, and Ellen Corby in a small part, and you're in for a hoot of an evening! The films is a little too long, but with such company, who cares? Nowadays, where "horror" films are populated by 24-years-old and younger performers, I can only think about the "good old days" when the genre boasted seasoned performers whose life experiences didn't take place in shopping malls. "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" is an old-fashioned blood-and-thunder melodrama enacted by performers who had years of theater and screen experience under their belts. There are also nods to "Diabolique","Gaslight", and "Eyes Without a Face" in this deep-fried fag-hag extravaganza. Now, how about an all-drag-queen stage recreation of this camp classic?
"HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE" is my 3rd favorite movie ever. My 2 favorite are Joan Crawford films. I agree with the other reviewer. As great an actress as Joan Crawford was, she would not have been the BEST Miriam. Olivia de Havilland's brilliance in the role of Miriam is the way she played with understatement. That's what makes the psychological abuse inflicted on Charlotte so chilling...Miriam is unbelievably believable right up to the very last. Had Joan Crawford gotten into a power struggle via the camera, the whole film would have suffered. She would have had to keep too much charisma, strength, and presence pumping to hold her own with Bette Davis (which she was ENTIRELY CAPABLE OF DOING). Someday, if it still exists, 20th Century-Fox Video would be able to make a mint by releasing the unreleased film footage shot with Joan Crawford. Agnes Moorehead is excellent as Velma Ca--rothers: "Shooo-weeee! She ain't nothin' but a chiiiiiild..." This is my favorite Bette Davis performance (a close tie with "Deception" from 1946). Joseph Cotton's and Mary Astor's roles could have been walked through by just about anyone, so you can't blame the actors. All in all, you just can't beat "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" for putting the "fun" back into dysfunctional family reunions. Show it at YOUR next one! Hopefully, 20th Century-Fox Video or Key Video will get around to repackaging this title soon. The box artwork has not changed since...well, since about 1964!
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Ever since I was a kid I identified this as "the scariest movie I've ever seen". And even today, despite the fact that as an adult one no longer possesses the same ability to be frightened by a film, "Charlotte" still emerges as one of the of the purest of terror-films in that it hits so many of the back-of-the-dark-closet horror cliches dead-center (in a good way) as few ever quite have.
Oh, sure, it won't compare to later slasher pics for blood (only one person gets sliced & diced, in fact) but the term "southern gothic", to my mind, simply held no real meaning until THIS came out...
Many people don't realize that "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" received more Oscar nominations  than any other horror film up to that time, a record tied only by "Silence of the Lambs" (in 1991) and surpassed by "The Exorcist"s 10 nominations (in 1973)... "Charlotte" won none, but the fact it lost the Best B&W Cinematography Oscar (for Joseph Biroc's drippingly dark work) is akin to grave-robbery!
Grander and more haunting than "Baby Jane" (though from the same production team), "Charlotte" is the more seductively macabre movie.
Borne of an era when "real" thrillers were coming to a close, when "Psycho"-period shockers felt so supernatural and creepy (even when they may not have been, technically, supernatural in plot) at the Cold War peak of the early-'60s...
Somehow, it all just feels more forlorn and sacred and sad than sadistic.
It's also one of the most quotable of films --- the dinner scene is a classic in itself. And, if you watch closely, it's chock full of smatterings of various scenes from Bette Davis pictures re-executed.