Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?
Running Time: 134 minutes
US Certificate: Unrated UK Certificate: 12a
Country: United States
Being a flopped child star can never be easy. Just ask Corey Haim. But add sibling rivalry to the mix and, if What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is anything to go by, youre left with a potentially lethal concoction.
This marvellous satire on the pressures of fading celebrity takes real-life fallen stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and pits them against each other in an unforgettable Hollywood showdown which manages to be bitter, dark and a bit silly all at the same time. They play squabbling sisters Jane (Davis) and Blanche (Crawford) Hudson, forced by circumstance to share a house where resentment hangs so thick in the air that you can practically smell it wafting through the screen.
During their childhood years, Jane had been the Bonnie Langford of her day, singing and dancing on stage to the delight of the whooping and easily-impressed masses. But, as the pair grew up, Janes increasingly-obvious crapness saw her disappear from the public eye, whilst sis Blanche began carving a career for herself as a major Hollywood star. The tables turn, however, when a car accident leaves Blanche stuck in a wheelchair, and Jane (who, by this stage, has more or less gone completely batty) is the only one around to look after her. And you just know Blanche is going to regret not kicking up a bit of a stink about being given an upstairs bedroom
This film was originally handed an 18 certificate, thanks to Janes increasingly wicked treatment of her helpless sis. Now, however, for this 2004 UK big screen re-release, its been brought down to a 12A, and its not too difficult to see why. By todays standards, the horror side of things is actually pretty tame, and viewing this welcome big screen re-release I saw it as less a spine-tingler than a black comedy, and all of it camper than a fortnight at Butlins to boot.
It still works incredibly well though, thanks mainly to the inspired casting of the two leads. You see, not only were Davis and Crawford real-life celebrity has-beens by the time this was made in 1962, but they also genuinely couldnt stand the sight of each other. Crawford once said of Davis: I don't see how she built a career out of a set of mannerisms, instead of real acting ability. Take away the pop eyes, the cigarette, and those funny clipped words and what have you got? She's phony. To which Davis replied: Shes slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.
On set, the petty feud got even better, with Crawford hiding weights in her pockets for the scenes in which Davis had to drag her across the floor. Davis then had a Coke machine installed in the studio because get this Crawfords late hubby had been a top exec with Pepsi! Its all great stuff, and you can just bet Davis took immense pleasure from the scene where she gets to kick Crawford in the head (she did it for real, with Crawford requiring stitches!).
I dont know about you, but Im really hoping Bonnie Langford and Corey Haim are sharing a cramped bed-sit somewhere right now.
It's Got: Budgie salad. Tastes like chicken, apparently.
It Needs: A ramp.
Alternatives:Misery, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1991 remake starring Redgrave sisters Vanessa and Lynne)
Dark, creepy, and also a bit camp and silly its the ultimate Hollywood catfight.