Charles Busch loves the movies. More specifically, he loves the grand dames of classic American cinema. He loves them so much that he likes to dress up like them and retell their best stories with campy humor. Just try to count the movies from which he has borrowed bits and pieces to build Die, Mommie, Die, and try to count the actresses he channels. You'll notice bits of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Jane Wyman, Rosalind Russell, and even Susan Hayward's memorable Helen Lawson from Valley of the Dolls.
The movies? Sunset Boulevard; Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte; Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?; Bette Davis's spooky/nutty 1964 thriller Dead Ringer; and every picture directed by Douglas Sirk are just a few of Busch's touchstones.
The final mix is a funny and even touching tribute to old Hollywood and the great old broads who kept on making movies long after they should have stopped. Cast and crew go to extreme lengths to create an authentic look and authentically cheesy dialogue that crank up the camp factor. The fact that Busch looks more like a linebacker in a wig than a lady only makes the whole thing funnier.
Set in 1967, the story finds former singing star Angela Arden (pronounced by Busch in that old-time Hollywood fashion as "Odd-en") living miserably in a Beverly Hills mansion with her has-been movie producer husband Sol (Philip Baker Hall), her horny daughter Edie (Natasha Lyonne), and her gay, reefer-smoking son Lance. Angela tolerates her hate-filled marriage by drinking constantly and entertaining a string of gigolos, the latest of which, Tony Parker (the spot-on Jason Priestley), has little trouble seducing not only Angela but also Edie and Lance. He's a busy guy.
When Angela comes up with the idea to murder her sonofabitch husband by soaking his suppository in arsenic (the perfect crime!), things in the already troubled household start to fall apart. For one thing, Bible-spouting Bootsie the maid (Francis Conroy) suspects Angela from the start, and soon the kids suspect her, too. The crime and the accusations lead to hilarious restagings of several classic Hollywood set pieces: the police interview of the strangely calm widow; the reading of the will, at which Angela gets pissed off enough to stab Edie in the face with a letter opener; the destruction of the evidence; and even, in a homage to every truly trashy '60s movie, a candy-colored LSD freakout during which the kids try to get Angela to admit her guilt. Instead, she has an insane flashback to her years as one of the singing Arden sisters that answers some questions but raises many more.
Like Psycho Beach Party, Busch's equally delirious tribute to '60s beach movies, Die, Mommie, Die is tons of silly fun, especially for movie fans who will appreciate Busch's many nods to Hollywood's tacky past. If Far From Heaven had had any sense of humor, it might have looked a little like this.
Bring out your dead!