Horror 365 Movie(s) 224: My 5 Favorite Henry Farrell Rip-offs

Okay, this post arose from a comment from The Facebooks. In response to Remake Wishlist Part II, she said she’d like to see a remake of Rosemary’s Baby. So would I because 1) I hated the original, and B) I hate Roman Polanski even more which no doubt fuels #1. She also indicated how much she loves Ruth Gordon, as do I. Gordon is, in fact, the only redeeming feature in Rosemary’s Baby. At all.

She also commented on Harold And Maude, one of the greatest, blackest comedies ever. Naturally, I suggested she should see What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice? This got me thinking about Robert Aldrich and Grande Dame Guignol movies.

The best of these, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte started out as fiction written by Henry Farrell who also wrote the stories that became How Awful About Allan and What’s The Matter With Helen?

It follows that many movies would come along trying at best to follow in Farrell’s footsteps, at worst trying to merely bait and switch the audience with a similar title. And so, we come to the topic at hand, My 5 Favorite Henry Farrell Rip-offs.

#5 What Ever Happened To…?

Arguably the worst rip-off of the original was its own 1991 made-for-TV remake. I can understand it though–I can understand it. I mean, fair play trying to capitalize on two actual sister actors in these roles. The problem is Vanessa Redgrave is one of the greatest actors of the 20th Century while Lynn Redgrave, well, ain’t. Man this movie is tedious. The elder Redgrave is too sympathetic as the ultimately evil Blanche while the younger Lynn’s clownish, juvenile Jane just doesn’t stack up against classic, vicious Bette Davisness. And yet, bravo for the idea right? Rumor has it that there’s also a male version of this out there somewhere, but I can’t find anything about it. If anyone knows, spill it in the Comments.

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#4 What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice?

This is, in fact, an Aldrich film. But unlike Baby Jane and Sweet Charlotte, it was not originally a novel or story by Henry Farrell. No, this one started out as a novel by Ursula Curtiss called The Forbidden Garden. The big draw on this one is the teaming up of Ruth Gordon with Geraldine Page, probably as a reflection of Bette Davis and Olivia De Havilland. Page is Claire Marrable, a widow who is left with little to live on. She ends up making money by swindling her own housekeepers, killing them, burying them in her yard, and planting trees over them. Like ya do. Soon Alice Dimmock (Ruth Gordon) shows up posing under false pretenses so she can look into the events of her friend’s (one of Claire’s housekeepers) disappearance. Oh, and there’s Jerry Bonerz, the dentist from The Bob Newhart Show.

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#3 Die! Die! My Darling!

Hot on the heels of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte came this somewhat minor effort from Hammer. Originally titled Fanatic, it was clearly rebranded to capitalize on the aforementioned Aldrich movie. Not to get all liberal artsy on y’all, but the two titles even follow the same metrical structure (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, shame on you for not paying attention in English class). This one has a way-before- Hart To Hart Stefanie Powers playing Patricia Carroll who runs afoul of Mrs. Trefoile, the one and only Tallulah Bankhead. Patricia was supposed to marry Mrs. T’s son, but he died in a car crash years earlier. When the ol’ gal finds out Patricia never intended to marry her son, she holds the young woman prisoner. Oh, and the Mrs. is also a religious fanatic. Also also, bonus Donald Sutherland marks.

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#2 Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

Yep, another attempt to jump on that “What Ever etc.” train. I’ve written about this one before, so there’s little point rehashing it here. Suffice to say it’s a grisly little retelling of “Hansel And Gretel” with Shelley Winters and leave it at that.

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#1 Baby Jane?

If you’re gonna remake a nearly perfect classic, you better be ready to take some risks and/or at the very least bring something new to the table. If not, you get something like Gus Van Sant’s towering failure (but not entirely unwatchable) Psycho. And so, submitted for your approval is this drag remake. If you’re thinking, “Oh come on. The original already looks like drag,” well, you’re not the first person to make that observation. But wowzers do they ever camp this one up. Matthew Martin dishes out a respectably Bette Davis-ish voice, and some of her quips are just, oh my. For example, when Jane brains Elvira with a hammer, her response is, “I had to kill her. No woman that age should have hair like that.”


Whew. Quite a list. To be honest, I can’t think of much else that might have gone on it. If you can, let me know in the Comments. And please tell me if there’s a fraternal version of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?



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