Saturday, 19 January 2019

Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

"B Movie Psycho Thriller - Robert Aldrich-Style"

Eureka continue their praiseworthy work of bringing us more Robert Aldrich films on Blu-ray with the release of the 1964 Southern Gothic he made just before THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (also available on Blu-ray from the same label).

It's 1927 and plantation owner 'Big" Sam Hollis (Victor Buono) is giving John Mayhew (Bruce Dern) a telling off, and with good reason. The already married Mayhew has been planning to run off with Sam's daughter Charlotte. Now he has to break it off or Sam will break him. John gives the news to a Charlotte that looks as if she's played by Bette Davis but lit with considerable chiaroscuro. 

Understandably upset, Charlotte runs off. The party at which all this is happening carries on and John gets meat cleavered to death by an unseen assailant in a manner soon to become beloved of Italian film-makers. Many years later, Charlotte (Bette Davis now without the chiaroscuro), considered to be responsible for the murder but not in prison due to 'Family Influence' lives in the now crumbling mansion pretty much by herself. And the council want to build a bypass. Instead of lying down in front of the bulldozer Arthur Dent-style she shoots at the workmen. But they're only going to stay away for so long, and when cousin Miriam (Olivia De Havilland) comes to visit Charlotte thinks it's the end of her worries. But the real horrors might just be starting. 

Clocking in at 133 minutes, HUSH...HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE is actually rather overlong for the story it wants to tell. Often spoken of in the same breath as Aldrich's superior WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962), HUSH...HUSH is actually more the kind of over the top psycho thriller that by 1964 both Hammer Films and William Castle (with the help of Jimmy Sangster and Robert Bloch) had proven themselves to be rather more adept at making. That's not to say HUSH...HUSH isn't worth watching - the photography and production design are memorable, and Frank deVol's music score doubtless influenced 'horror' composers like Ronald Stein. It's also fun to see Hollywood heavyweights like Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland and Joseph Cotton playing out this kind of lurid melodrama, just don't expect something with the depth of BABY JANE.

Eureka's Blu-ray comes with two commentary tracks, including a brand new one from Kat Ellinger and another from Glenn Erickson. I'm not going to steal their thunder but the shooting history of this one is almost as good a story as the one on screen, especially as the movie was intended to co-star Joan Crawford - and footage had been shot - before things began to go horribly wrong. There's also a 22 minute making of, a 13 minute talking head piece from Bruce Dern, and five minutes of behing the scenes archival footage narrated by Joseph Cotton. Finally, there's a trailer, TV spots and a booklet featuring a new essay by Lee Gambin. 

Robert Aldrich's HUSH...HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 21st January 2019

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