Logline: An aging ex-child star torments her crippled sister, who was once a Hollywood movie queen.
Review: I love Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two of the greatest actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age. The first and only time these two divas were paired together on the silver screen was in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, a dark classic about sibling rivalry that acts as both black comedy and a slow simmering psychological horror film.
The irony is that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford actually did have a well publicized offscreen rivalry since the 1930s. Davis and Crawford give two of their best performances. Not to take away from Crawford’s wonderful turn as Blanche but it is Davis who steals the show as Baby Jane Hudson. Jane becomes more insane as the film progresses until she has completely lost it by the end. Jane and Blanche are fascinating personas. Even the film’s supporting characters, like Edwin and his mother, are great. The nosy next-door neighbor Mrs. Bates is an obvious nod to Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). In fact, Baby Jane and Psycho share similarities, such as their reliance on suspense rather than cheap thrills.
Baby Jane is a film that slowly builds the tension and it is expertly crafted. There is a real sense of claustrophobia in the decaying Hollywood mansion that the two aging stars inhabit. The framing of the looming staircase divides the house into the first floor, or Jane’s lair and the second floor, where the paraplegic Blanche is trapped.
If you like your horror to be subtle, then look no further than What Ever Happened to Baby?. It features two screen legends at their best.
Rating (out of ****): ****