Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

There's definitely a few surprises in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Watching Bruce Dern getting his right hand cut off with a butcher knife in a 1964 film was definitely unexpected. Blood spattering on a wall caught me off-guard.

Seeing a major character fall down a flight of stairs, in rather convincing fashion, wasn't anticipated.

How about a brief cameo from screen icon Mary Astor, in her final film role? That's pretty cool.

Some twists in this horror/suspense effort from director Robert Aldrich are fairly easy to see, but one major plot point definitely isn't anticipated and packs a punch near the film's finale.

This seven-time Oscar nominated film starts in the past. It's 1927 and Big Sam (Victor Buono) is reading the riot act to John Mayhew (Dern). The married Mayhew is having an affair with Sam's daughter, Charlotte (Bette Davis). The relationship must end, dad decrees. Charlotte is devastated when John calls off the relationship. The same night, at a party hosted at Sam's mansion, Mayhew is murdered. Charlotte appears to be the likely suspect. She spends the next 30-plus years largely alone in her childhood home. Only her maid, Velma (Agnes Moorehead), sticks it out alongside the woman townsfolk brand insane. "She's not really crazy," Velma suggests.

Charlotte taps her cousin, Miriam (Olivia de Havilland) for help when a highway development threatens her home with demolition. Miriam looks like she's loaded up on sedatives, staying extraordinarily calm while Charlotte has visions of her long-dead beau coming back to be with her. Velma is suspicious of Miriam's intentions. Harry (Cecil Kellaway) rolls into town from England wanting to meet with Charlotte and hear her story. Drew (Joseph Cotten) is a local doctor who has a connection to Miriam and Charlotte. But is he looking out for the best interests of this patient?

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte has its creepy moments. The setting just invites a good case of the heebie jeebies - an old home in the middle of nowhere with lots of shadows. What's up with that unseen dog who can be heard barking at night? Davis is often hysterical through its two-hour running time. We never learn why she remained so devoted to John years after his untimely demise. These points get a little frustrating. Harry's travelled a long way to get Charlotte's story, but he doesn't press as often as he needs too. I can't see his editor back in England being very happy with his so-so efforts. An American tabloid shooter has less tact, but gets the job done much more effectively.

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte would work better if it was a little shorter and some of its plot points made a little more sense once the full story is known.

RATING: 7/10

FUN FACTS: Agnes Moorehead made her debut in Citizen Kane. She also appeared in a classic Twilight Zone episode, The Invaders.

John Megna makes a brief appearance at the film's start. He was Dill Harris in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Al Martino sings the title song. The American signer's hits included Spanish Eyes and I Love You Because.

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