There’s a handful of movies I can sit and watch over and over and over again. Some of these I’ve been known to watch a couple times back to back. Psycho definitely but also What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and for sure Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. I do love me a big ol’ heapin’ heppin’ of chicken-fried Southern Gothic Grande Dame Guignol.
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, and How Awful About Alan were originally all fiction by Henry Farrell. He also wrote the screenplay for What’s The Matter With Helen. My wish is that he’d somehow been involved with Whoever Slew Auntie Roo. Sadly he was not. So much for everything about my world existing in complete harmony with the music of the spheres. But I digress.
So first of all, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte is a treasure trove of heavy hitters. Everyone is in this thing! Not just Bette Davis in the title role (that alone constitutes reason enough to watch pretty much anything). There’s Olivia De Havilland who plays the viciously evil Miriam. Her co-conspirator is Drew (Joseph Cotten). Bruce Dern, Victor Buono, and Agnes Moorehead all join the party as well. Hell, Mary Astor and George Kennedy even show up.
The Faulknerian southern gothic storyline is so full of intrigues and mini-plots it becomes convoluted on an impressively giallo level. To provide a summary is nigh impossible. But I’ll try. Oh, and for added effect, anything in bold should be read like Keith Morrison on Dateline. Lessee…Charlotte is the crazy ol’ local recluse living in her big ol’ decrepit southern manse. Everyone thinks she’s batshit and has ever since someone decapitated her married lover way back in 1927. No proof was ever found, but everyone knew it was Charlotte. Wasn’t it?
Back in the present, Charlotte’s house is slated for demolition to make way for a new interstate (cuz progress). Charlotte claims ignorance of all this and refuses to be put out of her home. She even tries to kill a bulldozer with a rifle. As one does. But Charlotte has an ally…her cousin…Miriam. Miriam was poor and brought up with Charlotte, and it seems they were close…but then Miriam…left…and went to New York to make her own way.
Charlotte is looked after somewhat by her housekeeper, Velma (Agnes Moorehead), and the aforementioned local doctor, Drew Bayliss. Ultimately, the sheriff comes and has to lay down the law. Things aren’t looking good. But just when it seems that Charlotte is set to lose everything…who should arrive? Why, cousin Miriam. She’s come to help…but it turns out that help can mean many different things. To all appearances…it looks as if Miriam is there to help save Charlotte’s home…but is she?
Okay that was exhausting. Sheesh. Anyway, Miriam is pretty much only there to help Charlotte get her shit together and get the hell out. But obviously not really. Clearly there’s more to it than that, but if you’ve never seen this, I totally do not want to spoil it for you. It’s twisted. It’s disturbing. It’s got a surprising amount of gore for an early 60s production by 20th Century Fox.
The performances are delightfully watchable. Bette Davis gives nothing but over the top Bette Davisness. Olivia De Havilland is not only evil but deliciously mean-spirited about it, at one point even slapping the crap out of Charlotte. It takes a good second to recognize Moorehead while she gnaws away at the scenery, but once you do, you’re like “Hey that’s Sam’s mother from Bewitched!” And Victor Buono, I mean, what can one say? King Tut opposite Adam West’s Batman aside, how I would love to have seen him get a chance to play Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Check him out as Charlotte’s father then imagine him saying “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity.” *chef’s kiss*
BODIES- 4 onscreen, 2 off
For rent on Apple TV, Google Play, Prime, Vudu, YouTube