Customer Review

113 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, April 8, 2005
This review is from: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (DVD)
Oh yeah! I've been waiting quite awhile to partake in this slab of metaphysical weirdness! Needless to say, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" is everything you've heard and more. People went back and forth, frothing at the mouth in anticipation of a Freddy Krueger versus Jason Voorhees duel in "Freddy vs. Jason," but if you want the real deal all you need do is check out Joan Crawford versus Bette Davis. By all accounts sworn enemies in real life, "Baby Jane" finally brought the two powerhouses together for a knock down, drag out fight of epic proportions in a movie that is so utterly insane it really does defy description. Every thing I will write about the film below won't do it justice. I imagine this movie is a lot like the Taj Mahal or the Grand Canyon--you can look at pictures and say "Wow! That looks incredible," but a two dimensional photographic image won't give you the full effect. You've got to go there to appreciate such natural wonders, and you'll have to rent or buy this DVD to appreciate the wonder of Bette Davis on autocamp as a former child star grown up into, well, read on and see.

Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) had it all when she was a child. A hit song insured that big audiences turned out to see her perform on the stage. Unfortunately, little Jane suffered from an ego the approximate size of Wyoming, an ego that resulted in temper tantrums with her parents and her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford). Eventually her raging sense of self torpedoed her career even as her sister's began to soar when the film industry blossomed. Jane Hudson sank into obscurity, liquor, cigarettes, and a monstrous case of mental illness that greatly accelerated when a tragic accident put Blanche in a wheelchair for life. Now the two sisters live together in a decrepit house reminiscing about the old days. Well, at least Blanche reminisces. Jane Hudson spends her time stalking around the house in pancake makeup and a gossamer gown now tattered and spattered, spewing sarcasm and veiled threats at her sister, the neighbors, and the maid who arrives once a week to see how things are going. Hudson still thinks it's possible to resurrect her long dead celebrity if only she can figure out a way to rid herself of the onerous burden that is Blanche. Obviously, she finds a way. She begins tormenting her sister by placing disgusting things in her food and making her sound crazy to outsiders. When that fails to work fast enough, she resorts to out and out physical violence.

With Blanche under lock and key in a bedroom upstairs, Jane begins the rigorous training all performers undertake to return to greatness. She hires a down and out musician by the name of Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono) to drop by the house for voice and dance lessons. Now the real insanity starts as Hudson rapidly devolves back into her childhood persona. She prances about the house singing her old musical numbers, giving it her all without realizing how incredibly grotesque the idea of an elderly woman imitating a child is. Flagg thinks Jane is crackers, and he's right more than he could possibly know, but a paycheck is a paycheck. Until he finds out what is going on in a bedroom upstairs, that is. Faced with the distasteful presence of the local constabulary and the probability of a lot of probing questions about what's been going on between the two sisters, Hudson packs Blanche in the car for a trip to the beach. I won't spoil the conclusion of this cult classic for you, but let's just say a startling revelation at the seashore proves to be the straw that finally pushes poor Jane Hudson over the edge. The denouement is upsetting, the sort of ending that has you putting your hand to your mouth in a "oh my" gesture.

"Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" is a masterpiece of casting, directing, and performing. The idea of putting these two lionesses of the silver screen in the same picture was a stroke of genius on the part of director Robert Aldrich, although many questioned his sanity for making such a decision. Wouldn't the two actresses tear each other apart on set? Apparently not, but there were a few confrontations--including a thrown back and some real kicks delivered in a certain scene--and sniping that hinted at the turmoil just under the surface. Aldrich moved forward, crafting a film that is both claustrophobic in its set pieces and one that uses the black and white photography to great advantage. The film really succeeds, however, because of Bette Davis. She blows Joan Crawford out of the water in this movie, although to be fair Davis from the start had the meatier role. Her garish appearance and screeching voice deliver the chills to the nth degree, and her progressive decline into total insanity is shocking and absolutely convincing. Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for her disturbing portrayal of Jane Hudson, and rightfully so. She should have won. I've seen hundreds if not thousands of horror films, and Davis's Jane Hudson ranks as one of the most disturbing characters I have witnessed in any of them.

Sadly, the DVD doesn't give us much in the way of extras aside from cast and crew biographies and a few pages of text describing the production. Then again, it's unlikely we would hear about the movie from the primary figures involved in its production since they are all long dead. Perhaps a commentary track with a film historian or a similar person could have been put on the disc; I know of other films that do this. Anyway, if you haven't seen this film you've got to run, not walk, to get a copy. It's that good, it's that disturbing, and it's that memorable.
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 5, 2009 10:36:51 AM PST
When I see that a review is a re-telling of the whole movie, I quickly stop reading it. A review should be written in such a way that it gives the reader a reason to wish to see the movie. It should motivate the reader through description of the film's message, tension, authenticity, and/or the actors' skills at possessing and inhabiting the characters. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2009 5:33:50 PM PST
tosca says:
well, 54 out of 57 people disagreed, thank goodness.
The review was just fine.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 6, 2009 8:54:44 AM PDT
Blanche says:
No matter what you read on this review, you will still be blown out of the water when you see this movie. I first saw it as a little girl and still LOVE the movie. Bette Davis was the best!!

In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2009 5:20:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 16, 2009 5:21:43 PM PDT
Sometimes descriptions are needed, espeically if there is no editorial review telling us what the movie is about. The way to indicate if you approve of the review or not is by clicking Yes or No. Otherwise, leave it up to reviewers to decide how to write a review. When I positioned my cursor over your name it said you only wrote one review. I wonder why?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2009 2:59:11 PM PDT
Alias says:
Agreed. A re-telling of the plot is not a 'review' at all. When someone is watching this movie for the first time after reading this 'review' a lot of the story will be expected now. A review is what you think of something and maybe what someone can expect from it. It's not - "then this happened and then this happened next" and so on. It spoils the entire movie for someone else.

Posted on Feb 20, 2012 9:36:28 PM PST
Scott Dorn says:
I agree with a few of the comments on here regarding retelling the entire film! I've seen the film several times in the distant past and remember the gist of the story along with a few of the famous lines.....however I've forgotten a lot of the details. I did stop reading because I'm ordering the movie and want to revisit it again for myself. I do appreciate your enthusiasm for the film and the actors, but it would be great if you just inserted a "spoiler alert" notice in this review.
Cheers and Happy Movie Viewing

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 9:36:16 AM PST
The casting of Crawford and Davis wasn't "a stroke of genius" from director Robert Aldrich, it was actually a stroke of genius from Crawford, who pushed for this film to be made, and unbelievably, suggested Davis for the role of Jane. Aldrich's genius was the final results....a truly bizarre and creepy film.

Posted on Mar 27, 2013 9:11:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 27, 2013 9:11:48 PM PDT
Ms. K says:
jeffrey leach: spoilers, dude. it's just common courtesy. not just what happens at the end, but the developments in between as well.

Posted on Apr 28, 2013 2:43:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2013 2:53:46 PM PDT
Gosh, I didn't think this review spoiled too much, and I've never seen it at all! (Unlike others above), so I am dismayed at the negative comments to your wonderful review. But I read this after seeing Frank Sinatra in a vintage film and running into this movie when also re-familiarizing myself with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Reading Bette's career roles and her age shows me why Joan suggested her for the role (and I think the entire plot is an iconic summation of their careers, especially the reveal at the end.) No wonder Joan suggested Bette and no wonder their performances are unbelievable. This review simply adds commentary to plot details I've already picked up in my research and now I really can't wait to see this! I have all kinds of respect for Bette undertaking the roles she did in her career, but check out "Bad Sister" and isn't that role reversal a hoot and even portends this film, in a romantic way? I can even see this film being a "30 years later" horror version of it... Too bad Joan wasn't Bette's sister in that one - that would have been the ultimate creepiness.
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Jeffrey Leach
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Location: Omaha, NE USA

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