ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #8: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My 8th review was for the 1962’s classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? directed by Robert Aldrich. Enjoy!

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October is synonymous with autumn and, for some of you, synonymous with Halloween, too. So, here we are again with another movie that will make you shiver, but you will love! However, unlike my previous review of The Innocents, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is not classified as a horror movie, but as a drama or a drama-thriller. That’s not important, because Robert Aldrich shows you and tells you a story horrifying enough to give you nightmares. In other words, it’s perfectly suitable for Halloween.

The young, blonde Jane Hudson, known as “Baby Jane Hudson,” is a successful child performer on-stage. She makes a lot of money and is pressured by her father to succeed. Her sister Blanche, a much simpler person, living in the shadow of her fame, but, as her mother has promised her, one day she’ll be famous. Indeed, several years later, in their adult life, both Blanche (Joan Crawford) and Jane (Bette Davis) have careers as movie actresses. This time Blanche is the successful one and Jane is about to be forgotten since movie directors don’t see talent in her anymore. One night, something terrible happens: Blanche is in an accident and loses the use of her legs, stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. This is just the prologue…

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After the opening credits, we are brought a few years later. Blanche and Jane are now two mature women living together in a big house in Los Angeles. Blanche is trapped in her wheelchair and room all day long, and Jane “takes care of her.” Well, in her own way. As a matter of fact, this is the occasion for Jane to take her vengeance. She can’t accept the fact Blanche ended up the successful one so she’ll make her sister’s life a living hell. Blanche, who has a good heart, understands her sister, who’s also an alcoholic. For Blanche, Jane is sick and needs to be cured which won’t be an easy mission. Meanwhile Jane wants to make a comeback in the show business.

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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? can be compared to Sunset Boulevard (another worthwhile film), for its themes of the fallen star refusing to grow old, who refuses to be forgotten and, even if it’s a hopeless case, wants to make a comeback. Sorry, a RETURN! But, unlike Sunset Boulevard, one element is added: revenge. Films about Hollywood are pretty interesting to watch as they make you understand the darker side of the movie business. I hear you saying: “But this is just a movie!” Maybe, but we can agree that, somehow, it reflects a certain reality. Look at for example, those silent movie stars who were forgotten with the talkies arrival! Hollywood can make you rich, but not necessarily happy.

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The most enjoyable thing about Baby Jane is the evolution of the characters. You see Jane’s cruelty towards Blanche grow and know how it’ll end. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is also a psychological movie. Of course, this psychological side is embodied in Jane. We, like Blanche, are eager to know why Jane’s acting this way. Why is she plotting this undeserved revenge? Blanche, as far as we know, hasn’t done anything wrong to her. Sisterly rivalry can be pretty bad sometimes! Jane complex mind is not only scary, but, somehow, completely fascinating because it’s hard to explain.

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Talking about sisterly rivalry, you’ll be amazed to discover how this film is, at some points, a perfect reflection of reality. Indeed, the two actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford truly hated each other in real life. Working together might not have been easy, but in a way, Robert Aldrich was right to cast them: he could be sure their acting would be sincere. I prefer Joan Crawford, but both are excellent actresses and, in this film, they give us one of the best performances of their career.

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Even if What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is not truly a horror movie, there are many aesthetic and narrative elements which will please scary movie lovers! Those who have seen the film will immediately think of the scenes where Jane gives horrible “food” to Blanche for dinner. For those who haven’t seen the film, I won’t say more; my maleficent mind wants you to be as surprised as Blanche!

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Also, those creepy Baby Jane dolls are an eerie object present throughout the film. Dolls are often used in horror films, especially porcelain ones. I remember, when I watched the trailer for this, I had to stop because the dolls were such a big part and honestly scared me. I really thought it was a horror movie with dolls coming to life and scaring people around them. After seeing it, I realized this was not the case, but, in a way, there’s something so alive about those dolls, probably due to the fact they are a perfect copy of Baby Jane Hudson when she was a charming little girl. In her house, Jane owns one of those dolls and it’s the only thing around that seems to make her happy by reminding her of her happy childhood.

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On its release, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was a commercial and critical success. It’s known as a classic today. It’s a movie with delightful suspense that teens will discover with a great pleasure. They’ll certainly be thrilled to discover another worthwhile film for Halloween.

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #7: The Innocents (1961)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My seventh review was for the 1961’s classic The Innocents directed by Jack Clayton. Enjoy!

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In my past reviews for this column, I’ve primarily reviewed comedies or films that weren’t comedic, but that weren’t completely dramatic. This time, I’m going to explore a totally different genre, because I want to show that young people might also like heavy dramas. This is the reason why I’ve chosen to review The Innocents. This movie is not only a drama, but a horror-drama. The Innocents is a British film directed by Jack Clayton in 1961, starring Deborah Kerr, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Megs Jenkins and Michael Redgrave in a minor role.

The Innocents takes place in England during the 19th-century. An uncle (Michael Redgrave) who can’t take care of his nephew, Miles (Martin Stephens) and his niece, Flora (Pamela Franklin) hires a governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) to care for them. Their last governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) died about a year ago. Miss Giddens accepts, despite her lack of experience, and moves to the family’s place in the country where the two orphan children live. It’s a big manor located in the beautiful English countryside. When she arrives, Miss Giddens hears a voice calling Flora, but she can’t tell where this voice is coming from. She then meets Flora, who hasn’t heard the voice, and they become good friends. A few minutes later, Miss Giddens meets Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper. Flora’s brother, Miles, is at school, but it won’t take long before he’ll be back home, because he has been, to everybody’s surprise, expelled from school. Miss Giddens tries to understand why, but Miles doesn’t want to talk about it.

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If the life in this castle started in a quiet and peaceful way, it won’t take long before changing. Progressively, Miss Giddens notices Flora and Miles’ strange behavior. She has terrifying visions of a man and a woman who are not supposed to be part of the house, that of Miss Jessel and Quint (Peter Wyngarde), the ancient gardener, both of whom are now dead. Miss Giddens becomes obsessed by these hallucinations (although she thinks they are real), and is convinced Miss Jessel and Quint’s spirits possess the children. What else will explain their strange behavior? Miss Giddens will try to save them, but being crazier herself, she brings them to a fatal ending.

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I had never been a fan of horror movies, but there are some exceptions and The Innocents is one of them. The movie itself is not that scary, but creepy. However, when you watch it and tell to yourself “what if this happened to me,” then, it becomes one of the most horrifying things ever. Of course, The Innocents is not like today’s horror films. Unlike today’s 21st-century horror movies, it is more refined. There is something poetic about The Innocents which makes the film beautiful. The Innocents is actually one of the most visually beautiful films I had ever seen. This is mainly due to the fine black and white cinematography created by Freddie Francis. The lights, the shadows, the white flowers, all make for a delightful spectacle for the eyes. The cinematography also adds certain strangeness to the film, especially during the visually mysterious hallucination scenes.

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Deborah Kerr is definitely a model of acting in this film, able to change her emotions very easily. It’s actually her performance in this film that made her a favorite of mine. The role of Miss Giddens is one of her best performances. Her clear and pretty British accent is delightful to hear. Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin as the children are also perfect. There is something lovely, but also disturbing about them, which is just what we need for this kind of film. Martin Stephens is a kid, but very mature at the same time. He actually looks and acts more like a little man then a child. (Stephens also played a creepy child in Village of the Damned.) Megs Jenkins is also an appreciated actress starring in this film. She is warm and brings a lot to the movie. However, it’s too bad Michael Redgrave only has a small part, because he really is one of a kind.

What is also appreciated about this film is it doesn’t need a ton of scary scenes to scare us. Everything goes progressively. You can follow the story without necessarily having to hide behind your pillow every time someone opens a door or climbs the stairs. Of course, there is a worrying atmosphere, but this one is more suspenseful than terrifying. The movie takes place in a home with many secrets and things to discover (or not), which makes us think of Manderley, the famous De Winter manor in Rebecca. But there are some frightening scenes that teens will appreciate. For example the moment when Miss Giddens first “sees” Quint when she is playing hide and seek with the children.

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Finally, we have to talk about the music, or more precisely the sound, which is a major element in this film. There isn’t really a soundtrack. As a matter of fact, the music is created by Flora humming “O Willow Waly” (which we also hear at the beginning of the film), by Miss Jessel voice calling Flora like an echo, and by the sounds of nature: the birds, the wind, the insects, etc. The work of the sound is remarkable and also adds poetry to the film. This only proves ambient sounds can be as affective as music to create a certain atmosphere.

It’s Halloween soon, so instead of watching something like The Exorcist, teens should watch The Innocents. It’s a film they’ll never forget and gives them the chance to see one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

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Irish Film Studies: Irish Horror and The Hallow

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This is my journal entry for Iris horror cinema and The Hallow (week 13).

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I’m not really a fan of horror films, because I don’t like that much being scared, but, as a subject of discussion, I’ve always found it fascinating. Our last class was about Irish horror cinema and the film The Hallow (a quite recent one as it was released in 2015). It allowed me to have a view of the genre in a more analytical way than simply watch a scary movie and hide behind my pillows.

This semester, we’ve explored the way many different genres were expressed through the Irish nationalism: war movie with The Wind the Shakes the Barkley, biopic with Nora, Western with The Quiet Man, Noir with Odd Man Out (although Noir is not a genre, but more an aesthetic), teen movie with Disco Pigs, etc. It is always interesting to see the approach that is taken by different movie industries in order to develop a genre with their own signature. Sure,  The Quiet Man is an American film, but it takes place in Ireland and the idea of Irish nationalism is present enough.

But let’s get back to our main subject.

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In the 2000s, Ireland began to witness a new wave or Irish horror movies such as Winter’s Head, Eclipse or, of course, The Hallow. Ian Cornish says of contemporary horror that it “provides a transcultural experience, one that demonstrates the striking presence of the genre globally and the levels of influence and crossover between different national forms and identities ” (1). Indeed, it seems that the different symbols of this nationalism have to be expressed in a horrific form. The thing is to find what the various elements of the film have anything to do with Irish culture and try to find their meaning, importance.

Sure, The Hallow is set in an Irish forest, but, except for this obvious element of “Irishness”, there’s more to it. Indeed, for example, in one of the two film reviews we read in class, it was indicated that the film was inspired by Irish mythology. The idea of folklore certainly has an important place in this film where the characters isolate themselves in a forest in a context of economic crisis.

Finally, I found interesting the observation that horror films are often very conservatives (fear of the unknown, the change, the madness, etc.). This goes in the same line of our week on Hush-a-Bye Baby where we learn about the Irish conservatism toward sexuality. Of course, this is something different, but the idea of traditional values is still here.

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Words: 417

Source:

(1) Conrich, Ian. ‘Introduction: Horror Zone.’ Horror Zone: the Cultural Experience of Contemporary Horror Cinema. IB Tauris, 2009.

Images sources

“Film Review: The Hallow (2015).” Horror News, Sept. 2, 2016, http://horrornews.net/105577/film-review-the-hallow-2015/.

“The Hallow: la critique.” Films- Horreur.com, Mar. 10, 2016, http://www.films-horreur.com/2016/03/the-hallow/.

Top of the World: 20 Favourite Movies to Watch for Halloween

It’s Halloween! Ouuuuu! Well, that seems to be the perfect occasion to do a top list of my 20 most favourite movies to watch for Halloween. As I don’t watch a lot of “traditional” Halloween movies, this top also contains thrillers, science-fiction, and dark comedies. I warn you, you won’t see anything such as The Exorcist or The Ring because I don’t like movies that are too scary and prevent me to sleep for weeks.

Of course, I could have included all Hitchcock movies… but I’ve limited myself to 4, those I thought were the most suitable for Halloween.

These are, obviously, my personal choices, so I’ll ask you to respect them. If a movie is not on the list, there are three reasons why: I don’t like it enough to put it on the list, I personally don’t really think it’s a Halloween movie or, I just haven’t seen it.

Well, here we go!

20. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975)

Especially for the music

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19. Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932) 

I’m not comparing those people to monsters, but there’s something a bit creepy in all this! “One of us!”

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18. Hush…Hush…Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964)

Aldrich was good at making disturbing movies…

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17. The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933)

I just watched it for Halloween!

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16. Se7en  (David Fincher)

A film I once swore I’ll never saw until I had to watch it for school… I don’t regret I did and I didn’t find it so scary (disgusting, but not scary).

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15. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Of course, this one should be on everyone’s list of the best horror movies ever made.

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14. The Trouble with Harry (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)

A delightful dark comedy. And it takes place during autumn!

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13. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)

THE sci-fi film of the list.

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12. Harry Potter (all of them except the 5th and the 6th)

Well, just because it’s Harry Potter ❤ And there’s a ton of monsters in there!

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Here is the first Voldemort, the creepiest one (IMHO)

11. Misery (Rob Reiner, 1990)

Anything by Stephen King is suitable for Halloween. I bet you forgot Lauren Bacall was in this film. 😉

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10. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

tatatatatatatatatata (You know what I mean…)

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9. Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)

Same story as Se7en… The film itself never really scared me, but my! It’s creepy and quite perfect for Halloween. Bon appétit…

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“I’m going to eat you.” 🙂

8. The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)

You know, when you’re afraid of pigeons, movies like that come to be quite scary (although there are no pigeons in The Birds…). You can read my review here.

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7. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962)

Well, another creepy Aldrich’s movie. Similar to Misery. You can read my review here.

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6. Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971)

When a truck becomes a monster… Very stressful film. You can read my review here.

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5. Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)

A very funny dark comedy! “He looks like Boris Karloff!”

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4. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laugthon, 1955)

Ah! That Harry Powell… You can read my review here.

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3. Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

Hum, I think the film belongs on the list for the atmosphere that is created by Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca’s spirit. Plus, it’s one I love.

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2. The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961)

In the genre of horror movies, this one has to be my favourite.You can read my review here.

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And

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Suspense…

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BIG SUSPENSE….

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Rear Window! (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)

Certainly not a “horror” movie, but what that strange neighbour does is enough to terrify us. I remembered being at the edge of my seat the first time I watched it.

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Honourable mention to The Shining. I’ve only seen the movie twice, and, the second time, it was only some excerpt so I don’t really remember it, explaining why I don’t really know where to put it in the list. But it deserves an honourable mention for Jack Nicholson’s performance alone.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed the top, and don’t hesitate to share your choices with me!

Happy Halloween to all!

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