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Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Almost yearly a filmmaker tries to recapture the spirit of camp best typified by the grand old dame horror pictures that Robert Aldrich made. But those intentionally cheesy films cannot match the inspired lunacy that permeates from having some of the most famous and talented actresses in cinema history slum — no man in drag can be as campy as Bette Davis reduced to playing crazy. 1964's Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte was Aldrich's follow-up-cum-sequel to 1962's Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and initially it was set to have Joan Crawford and Bette Davis return to duke it out once more. But the shooting of Baby Jane provoked both stars' egos, making Crawford bow out of this one, after which Olivia de Havilland came in to replace her. As a result, the film isn't quite as much fun (de Havilland doesn't have the star magnitude of Crawford), but it still manages to delight in its over-the-top antics. Davis stars as Charlotte Hollis, who in 1927 is suspected of killing her beau John Mayhew (Bruce Dern) after he dumped her, which her father Big Sam Hollis (Victor Buono) forced John to do. But in 1964 Charlotte has become a spinster, living in her crumbling mansion (lending the film an eerie parallel to the Maysles Brothers' 1976 documentary Grey Gardens) even as it's about to be torn down, with only her friend her servant Velma Cruther (Agnes Moorehead). Her cousin Miriam (de Havilland) is summoned to her estate to help, and she brings her husband Dr. Drew Bayliss (Joseph Cotton) along. But their intentions are not to save the home — and Miriam may have her eye the home's inheritance, since she's next in line for it. An arch southern gothic yarn, there's not a lot of substance to Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte: As a murder mystery, there's not too much guessing to figure out who the real culprit and bad folks are. No, the fun of a movie like this is in watching actresses past their prime vamp, and Davis chews her scenes with so much gluttony that she leaves rubble on the floor. Often screaming, and with a delicious southern accent, she's as hypnotic as a ten-car pile-up. Unfortunately, at 133 minutes, the picture drags a bit in the middle, in which a reporter tries to suss out the answers to the earlier murder. But as a camp classic, Hush… Hush has few peers. Fox presents the title as part of its "Studio Classics" imprint with a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and both monaural and Dolby 2.0 Stereo audio. Extras include a commentary by "DVD Savant" Glenn Erickson, two trailers, three TV spots, and bonus trailers. Keep-case.

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