Tag Archives: Robert Aldrich

Film Review: Spider Baby (1967)

The Merrye family suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Merrye Syndrome that causes mental, physical, and emotional regression. After the death of the family patriarch, the family chauffeur Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.) looks after his children and tolerates the brutality and madness of the three Merrye siblings; spider-obsessed Virginia (Jill Banner), Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), and Ralph (Sid Haig). But protecting them from the heinous crimes becomes almost impossible when the relatives of the building owner arrive with their lawyer and secretary to claim the ownership.

There was a time for the spooky and horror films that achieved cult status in Hollywood and Europe in the 1960s followed by Giallo films of Italy in the same decade until the late 1970s. This was a special wave created by some innovative filmmakers who believed in setting trends of the genre.

Two prime examples to make my point is Robert Aldrich‘s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho. But those films were directional classics of the genre and their production budgets were around $1 million. This Spider Baby was a low-budget film with a production investment of hardly $60-70 thousand. Maybe the reason is that director Jack Hill was making exploitation films in those times and this kind of film had a relatively low budget because, from the business point of view, they were never able to compete with the biggies of those times.

Spider Baby’s accomplishment is the presentation of the elements of black comedy and horror. The story itself was unique for the audience. Plus the actors of that syndrome did a lot of justice with their crazy portrayals. I was completely sold at the beginning scene where Virginia suddenly arrives in the room with two butcher knives and a rope which she calls her ‘web’ and brutally kills the visitor. The camera work and Jill’s body language were phenomenal. So was the main theme of the film that gives you a very exciting gothic feeling.

How good is it? Well, it definitely is not a masterpiece due to the low budget but an easy visit to the spooky genre for entertainment. Spider Baby will be remembered for its story and horror elements.

Ratings: 5/10

Film Review: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Poster - Whatever Happened to Baby Jane_01

Dreams rot in jealousy and fraction of life freeze with idiocy. Two tamed sisters in one roof with a peculiar understanding live a rough and rigid life. Blanche Hudson is on a permanent wheelchair and her sister Jane Hudson, once a child stage performer under the name Baby Jane, has health and mental issues loyal with liquor.

Baby Jane is now a forgotten name and out of any limelight and she clearly blames Blanche that she ruined her career. Then Jane in fury hit her car on Blanche taking her legs forever. Bounding her life within a room, Jane’s behavior towards Blanche goes worse and mentally tortures her by many ways.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is a psychological thriller directed by Robert Aldrich and based on Henry Farrell‘s novel of the same name and enjoys a cult status among moviegoers. The biggest reason of this movie’s immense popularity was bringing two of the greatest darlings of Hollywood’s golden era in same frame who never shared the screen together – Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

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The legacy behind uniting two wonderful actresses burdens a major fact that the names were, are and will always remain Hollywood’s most notorious feud. In their careers, both ladies carried tremendous hatred for each other for many reasons and the same level of respect was maintained in the making of movie.

There is one intense scene where Jane (Davis) beats Blanche (Crawford) after Blanche forces to drop herself from wheelchair to the ground floor to call the doc and asks for help by reporting Jane’s mental problems. Crawford was concerned that Davis would actually hurt her, and asked for a body double. There was one close up however that a double could not be used for. When this was filmed, Davis did clip Crawford’s head – Crawford screamed, and filming stopped. “I barely touched her” said unapologetic Davis. Others claimed that she left Crawford in need of stitches.

Another scene is a sweet revenge by Crawford over Davis. There is a scene when Jane has to lift Blanche from her bed towards the door. Crawford knew that Davis had suffered back problems in the past, so she drops her weight in the hands of Davis to make her feel worse. When the filming was finished, Davis was screaming in agony, and Crawford strolled back to her dressing room.

That is not enough! Bette Davis was nominated for Best Actress in Oscars for the role but that night in the Academy Awards function, she lost the award to Anne Bancroft for The Miracle Worker. In Anne’s absence, it was none other than Crawford to accept the award on her behalf in front of Davis. Some have claimed, Crawford pushed Davis while walking towards the stage and said “Step aside; I have an award to accept!”

whatever-happened-to-baby-jane1

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a smashed pumpkin caused by a running vehicle. A genuine psychoanalysis of hatred among the kins. It is not only Davis-Crawford show, the whole movie is also a story-teller to the generations. Before WHTBJ happened, the careers of both legendary actresses were waning and both in the same weak timeline were in need of a successful movie. Another great aspect of the movie is the description of downfall in fates or shall I say instant karma. How the success has its last goodbye on you and you make unsuccessful attempts of winning the same limelight but in reality you are faking and fading yourself. Bette Davis as Baby Jane displays amazing portrayal of emotions. Her performance in last 30 minutes will break you.

On the other hand, Crawford as Blanche is the perfect patient on wheelchair who understands and translates her desperation in performance. The most critical portion of her superior performance is when she lifts herself from the wheelchair and strives to walk down the ladder to chase the telephone.

WHTBJ was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Actress to Better Davis and winning for Best Costume Design. It indeed is insane movie but worth a name for inclusion in the list when it comes to picking best movies of the sixties. Unforgettable Davis-Crawford show!!

Movie Ratings: 8.2/10

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