What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Film, Thrillers
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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

This re-released B&W melodramatic thriller gave the muscular director Robert Aldrich a big hit on release in 1962 and has enjoyed warm admiration ever since as a camp classic. Part of its appeal was casting the explosive mixture of ageing stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as the co-dependent/murderously antagonistic ex-starlet sisters; ex-child star Jane (Davis), maddened by sororial jealousy and alcoholism, and the threatened Blanche, who eclipsed her, now bound by a wheelchair and a staircase-filled house.

Reviewed nowadays, the Guignol/Gothic elements impress less (the eerie use of sound and cinematographer Ernest Heller’s clever expressionist touches notwithstanding) than the wry Billy Wilder-esque cynicism Aldrich applies to its ‘Hollywood on Hollywood’ portrait and his use of sturdy Hitchcockian techniques to strengthen and punctuate the film’s neurotic hot-house melodramatics. Though far from Aldrich’s best, it still makes for an amusing and enjoyable romp, with Davis’s schizophrenic ravings deepened by the poignant awareness the director shows of loss, ageing and faded glory.

By: Wally Hammond


Release details

Rated: 12A
Duration: 133 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenwriter: Lukas Heller
Cast: Bette Davis
Joan Crawford
Victor Buono
Anna Lee
Maidie Norman
Marjorie Bennett