Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), produced and directed by Robert Aldrich.

Further exploiting a genre he pretty much invented with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Aldrich gives us even more elaborate crazy-old-lady adventures of Bette Davis.

Unkindly, these are called "psycho-biddy" or "hag-sploitation" films. Aldrich just owned them, which is strange because he split his time between these and war or tough-guy films like Attack (1956), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). The only common theme seems to be unsentimentality.

This time he steals plot from Diabolique (1955) and lurid thrill techniques from Roger Corman and William Castle. Seriously: this is their sort of film done big budget with major stars, introducing upscale audiences to hauntings and severed limbs. I'll bet they screamed and screamed.

For extra flavor the film is dunked in deep gooey Southern Gothic mannerisms. Everyone goes way overboard, with a special award for Agnes Moorehead showing everyone else how it's done.

Joan Crawford was supposed to return but quit after location filming. She was both physically sick and sick and tired of abuse from Bette Davis. The role was offered to Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young, and Barbara Stanwyck, but finally accepted by Davis's long-time friend Olivia de Havilland. When she first appeared -- wearing her own clothes, French fashions -- I thought, "That's the Deborah Kerr role!" I kept thinking of Kerr throughout the picture.

I was liking it but also thinking "this is going on too long" when we have shocking and exciting plot twists in the second half. The story "cheats" with scenes that make no logical sense.

Bette Davis does something brave I have never seen in film: at one melt-down shock point she doesn't scream or whimper but descends into gasping noises of animalistic panic. The crew was absolutely shocked, then applauded. That was one take only.

With Joseph Cotten. Mary Astor's last film. Bruce Dern and George Kennedy have small parts.

Music by Frank De Vol, photographed by Joseph Biroc. Both were frequent collaborators with Aldrich.

Twilight Time Blu-ray with an excellent image, showcasing the dramatic black-and-white composition.

Two commentary tracks, full of details, but also -- like the track for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) -- obsessively fascinated with the oversized grande dame personalities of the women involved and their titanic conflicts. I've had enough.