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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Review


Essential
Watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? fills one with a sense of nostalgia for a time they may never have known but can always relive. In 1962, Baby Jane's year of birth, the cinema was a wonderful place to be. Films mattered, genres were being stretched, and classics were produced. To Kill a Mockingbird, Lolita, The Manchurian Candidate, Lawrence of Arabia, and Baby Jane - it was quite a year. It was also the time when the late Bette Davis, Hollywood's own Elizabethan matriarch, was performing. A vehicle for Davis and archrival Joan Crawford, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a stunning testimony to a golden age.

Baby Jane Hudson (played in her older years by a gloriously dilapidated Davis) was a star. As a goldie-locked kindergarten beauty, Baby Jane performed to sold-out audiences in 1917. Sister Blanche, then the plainer of the two, was always reminded of that depressing reality. Standing off-stage left, enviously watching her sister screech through a set of syrupy "I love you daddy" numbers, Blanche could only dream of a future when the audience's eyes and inclinations might shift. And they do. Flashing decades forward with superb audacity, director Robert Aldrich introduces us to a new world, where Blanche is a superstar who, though crippled, is still adored by her fans. Baby Jane is as Baby Jane was destined to be, a pale shadow of her juvenile success.

Continue reading: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Review

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) Review


Excellent
This exciting and underseen film features James Stewart at the top of his late-career game, offering the far-fetched yet strangely compelling tale of a group of air crash survivors who, trapped in the Sahara Desert and with no other options in sight, decide to build a miniature plane out of the giant air hulk they crashed in. Sure, the odds of crashing your plane with a flotilla of tools, jet fuel, pressed dates, and a welding apparatus -- but without a working radio or much water -- isn't exactly believable, but somehow director Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen) makes it work, and work well. Will this bizarre contraption really work? It's two and a half nail-biting hours during which personalities violently crash, schemes are hatched, and a career-making secret is revealed.

Continue reading: The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) Review

The Dirty Dozen Review


Good
Can The Dirty Dozen really be 40 years old? Well, almost. This watershed film paved the ways for bad-guys-as-heroes flicks ranging from The Wild Bunch to Reservoir Dogs, and its influence is still felt today. Yet how can The Dirty Dozen feel so tired when viewed in this millennium? Maybe its a cast that, though exquisite, is a bit much. The Dirty Dozen also appears to have paved the way for the Airport movies, studded with megastars and short on plot. Viewed today, too much of Dozen is schlocky and trite, reliant on stereotypes that border on Hogan's Heroes-level characterizations to tell the WWII-era story. (Writ large: 12 career criminals are given a last chance to pull off a major anti-Nazi mission.) The film is pioneering, daring, and very well made. But there's a bit much to go around, and now you can see the actors jockeying for notice among each other. Still a good film, though its impact is now starting to fade.

Continue reading: The Dirty Dozen Review

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Review


Essential
Watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? fills one with a sense of nostalgia for a time they may never have known but can always relive. In 1962, Baby Jane's year of birth, the cinema was a wonderful place to be. Films mattered, genres were being stretched, and classics were produced. To Kill a Mockingbird, Lolita, The Manchurian Candidate, Lawrence of Arabia, and Baby Jane - it was quite a year. It was also the time when the late Bette Davis, Hollywood's own Elizabethan matriarch, was performing. A vehicle for Davis and archrival Joan Crawford, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a stunning testimony to a golden age.

Baby Jane Hudson (played in her older years by a gloriously dilapidated Davis) was a star. As a goldie-locked kindergarten beauty, Baby Jane performed to sold-out audiences in 1917. Sister Blanche, then the plainer of the two, was always reminded of that depressing reality. Standing off-stage left, enviously watching her sister screech through a set of syrupy "I love you daddy" numbers, Blanche could only dream of a future when the audience's eyes and inclinations might shift. And they do. Flashing decades forward with superb audacity, director Robert Aldrich introduces us to a new world, where Blanche is a superstar who, though crippled, is still adored by her fans. Baby Jane is as Baby Jane was destined to be, a pale shadow of her juvenile success.

Continue reading: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Review

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) Review


Excellent
This exciting and underseen film features James Stewart at the top of his late-career game, offering the far-fetched yet strangely compelling tale of a group of air crash survivors who, trapped in the Sahara Desert and with no other options in sight, decide to build a miniature plane out of the giant air hulk they crashed in. Sure, the odds of crashing your plane with a flotilla of tools, jet fuel, pressed dates, and a welding apparatus -- but without a working radio or much water -- isn't exactly believable, but somehow director Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen) makes it work, and work well. Will this bizarre contraption really work? It's two and a half nail-biting hours during which personalities violently crash, schemes are hatched, and a career-making secret is revealed.

Continue reading: The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) Review

Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Review


OK
As moviegoers were recovering from the shock of watching twin gorgons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford claw their way through the unforgettable Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, producer/director Robert Aldrich was already planning to capture lightning in a bottle twice by coming up with another vehicle for the gruesome twosome. In the end, Crawford wouldn't commit (no big surprise, given the way Davis upstaged her), so Aldrich ran through a roll call of aging leading ladies, none of whom had the desire -- or the guts -- to appear opposite Davis in his follow-up, the delightfully named Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Luckily, Olivia de Havilland eventually signed on, and the film, a campy Southern gothic thriller that scares and amuses in equal parts, finally got made. Davis stars as Charlotte Hollis, a decrepit and slightly insane Southern lady who 30 years earlier murdered her boyfriend John Mayhew (Bruce Dern)... maybe. The weapon? An axe, what else?

Continue reading: Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Review

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