WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? : DVD
Sisters Jane (Bette Davis) and Blanche (Joan Crawford), competitive since childhood, grow up in showbiz; the bad tempered brat, Jane, billed Baby Jane Hudson, makes it in vaudeville in the 1920s, while Blanche makes it in the movies. By their late 20s, they're both in pictures, but Baby Jane's fortunes dim while Blanche rises to superstardom. When a mysterious car 'accident' leaves Blanche paralysed from the waist down, Jane is put in charge of looking after her wheelchair bound sister. Their enmity intensifies as resentment blooms, until Jane's drink-prodded fury - a violent, exaggerated version of her youthful brattishness - triggers a series of events that lead to disaster.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The story of how Baby Jane becomes Tyrant Jane is a classic of American cinema, made so by pairing real life rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the roles of two showbiz sisters pitted against each other in dire circumstances. Joan Crawford as Blanche gets our sympathy, but Bette Davis as Jane gets the acting honours (Oscar nomination) as the deteriorating, boozing and vicious Jane, whose jealousy sends her stark raving bonkers. In full overacting style, Davis hogs our attention in crazy wig and overdone lipstick as she tramples and blusters around the house where her sister Blanche is stuck in her upstairs bedroom in a wheelchair - the result of an 'accident' with a car one night, at the height of her Hollywood fame.
The backstory is economically established within the first 10 minutes, before we are in the highly charged atmosphere of the depressing autumn of their lives. But it's not depressing to witness two great actresses battle it out - one with screaming greasepaint, the other with quiet suffering - as the psychological pressure intensifies. It's in beautiful (Oscar nominated) black and white, but Jane's venom turns the film green and purple.
Victor Buono makes an Oscar nominated contribution as the large young pianist who, out of unemployed desperation, answers Jane's ad for a musician to be her accompanist for a new act - the same old Baby Jane act, in fact.
Depending on your sensibilities, the film is either a black camp comedy or psychological horror - either way, it's hugely entertaining and Robert Aldrich's direction assured and smart.
A bright commentary track by a couple of enthusiastic film buffs (fans of the stars, for a start) gives us plenty of trivia, while Disc 2 is crammed with background material on both the stars.
February 26, 2009
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WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? : DVD (M)
CAST: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Maidie Norman, Wesley Addy,
PRODUCER: Robert Aldrich
DIRECTOR: Robert Aldrich
SCRIPT: Lukas Heller (novel by Henry Farrell)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ernest Haller
EDITOR: Michael Luciano
MUSIC: Frank DeVol
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Glasgow
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
PRESENTATION: B&W; 16:9; DD
SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Commentary by Charles Busch, John Epperson; Disc 2: Bette & Joan; All About Bette; Joan Crawford profile; Vintage featurette - Behind the scenes; Andy Williams Show with Bette Davis. [Subtitles in English, Arabic, French, Icelandic, Italian, Romanian]
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
DVD RELEASE: February 11, 2009 (reissue Special Edition)
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.