Grande Dame Guignol

Caproni

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But it was their lack of cordiality that made their pairing so notable -- their similarities and their differences.
Quite true. Yet each of them spoke professionally when asked about one another. Well, at least until Joan passed.​
 

Snarky Oracle

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Quite true. Yet each of them spoke professionally when asked about one another. Well, at least until Joan passed.​

Oh, not always.

 

Caproni

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Oh, not always.

Most interviews I've seen (or heard) made when Joan was still alive seem like they spoke vaguely positive of one another. Bette apparently appreciated Joan as a professional, and Joan evidently felt the same. Bette was very outspoken about her distaste for Joan, especially towards the end of her life.​
 

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Crawford's great in STRAIT-JACKET, but the film just doesn't support her ... it's a C-movie.

Yes, it's a shame she wasn't making the movie she thought she was making. Few stars equaled Joan's ability to elevate trash, but even she couldn't surmount overt ineptitude. Even a workmanlike director should have been able to make a nifty film with the basics here, but William Castle was only a step above Ed Wood.
 

Caproni

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Yes, it's a shame she wasn't making the movie she thought she was making. Few stars equaled Joan's ability to elevate trash,
Yeah, Crawford had a really unique quality to elevate lesser quality films, but not even she could truly make STRAIT-JACKET a great movie.​
 

Snarky Oracle

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Yes, it's a shame she wasn't making the movie she thought she was making. Few stars equaled Joan's ability to elevate trash, but even she couldn't surmount overt ineptitude. Even a workmanlike director should have been able to make a nifty film with the basics here, but William Castle was only a step above Ed Wood.

And STRAIT-JACKET may be close to his worst, in terms of cinematic competence. In every scene you can see what Castle ought to be doing --- but clearly isn't, and that's what makes it so difficult for me.

Even HOMICIDAL and I SAW WHAT YOU DID are refined films in comparison.

 

Caproni

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So I just recently realized that Wikipedia has morphed their "psycho-biddy" (their preferred term for Grande Dame Guignol) into a page their calling "gender in horror films".

I'm not exactly sure why, but this how thrown me for a whim. I don't like that Grande Dame Guignol doesn't have its own page. But I guess I shouldn't cry too much because we've got a discussion that's being going strong here for several years.​

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Caproni

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I love the term "grande dame guignol" for this genre (some call it "psycho biddy" but that's way too queen-y somehow for my tastes). When done well, it's one of my favorite cinema trends -- even though George Cukor found it lamentable, not surprisingly.

A lot of the appeal comes from that end-of-the-world/Psycho/TwilightZone-y vibe that existed in the early-to-mid-'60s. And if you mix that up with quality B&W camerawork, a decent director, and the just exactly right maniacal diva, then how, frankly, could you possibly lose?

My favorite is HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, and as Bette is being whisked away in a squad car at the end, the old world twentieth century seems to go with her. It's the last vestiges of something.





STRAIT-JACKET for me is the most frustrating, because you can see how it could have worked --- I mean, Joan Crawford with an axe? What's not to love?? But Bill Castle, who reportedly hoped to make his "classic" with this movie, instead did some of his sloppiest work even for Castle. It was a C-level film from a B-movie maestro.

LADY IN A CAGE always makes me think of WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR with Sal Mineo in that it was a rare glimpse, albeit thru a B-movie horror prism, of the mid-'60s meltdown of the inner cities that Hollywood never showed. CAGE gets a bit long winded, though.

DEAD RINGER is a good B-movie, and much better than STRAIT-JACKET.

THE NIGHT WALKER with Stanwyck has a marvelous prologue montage obviously put together by someone other than director Bill Castle, and the movie offers a fabulously creepy Vic Mizzy score. And you get Constance and Cecil Colby together! But it falls apart quickly.

THE NANNY is an excellent A- movie from Hammer and one of Bette's best, early or late, in her big screen career.

FANATIC (also know as "DIE DIE MY DARLING") gives us a terrific performance from Tallulah Bankhead, a laughably to-period elocution lesson from Stefphanie Powers, and a fun production design. But once Powers gets locked up in the attic, it begins to get draggy as well.

PICTURE MOMMY DEAD is in color, so it doesn't work for me. But it's definitely of that child-eye-view, nursery rhyme school of period chillers.

BERSERK was much better when they called it CIRCUS OF HORRORS several years earlier. In my head, the two movies get mashed up with Crawford as Anton Diffring's ex. lol

THE ANNIVERSARY and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE are acceptable.

Doesn't THE MAD ROOM also have Michael Burns in it? That's all I care about, the cute little nerd-monster.

NIGHT WATCH with Taylor is also a downright good movie, with its shrouded, overcast (okay, so it is London) early-'70s vibe. Much underrated and underseen.




I haven't seen the others, I don't think.
I can't tell you how frequently I go back and re-read your briefings on these films. When I think about one of them, I jump to your comments for a quick reference.​
 

Caproni

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OK everyone, don't rake me across the coals, but I just ordered this Blu-ray double-feature from Amazon literally seconds ago. I know these aren't the best of Grande Dame Guignol, but they went on sale today for under $10 (US) to purchase and have shipped to my house. I've read the Blu-ray quality of these transfers aren't necessarily stellar, but that's never bothered me. We're going to be watching them on my laptop anyway.​

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Caproni

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@Snarky Oracle I know... I know. STRAIT-JACKET and BERSERK aren't the cream of the crop, but the deal was just too good to pass up. If I could've found these movies online -- preferably for free -- I would've downloaded them. But if I'm going to buy them, I'd rather have the physical copies.​
They are essential Grande Dame Guignol viewing . High camp and good fun!
Well, most of the hagsploitation movies fall within that campy B-movie territory, so I guess I'm not missing the mark too much. The only A-level ones were BABY JANE and CHARLOTTE, and I've been had those.​
CIRCUS OF HORRORS (1960)
I remember your earlier comparison, but I've yet to see this movie.​
 
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Caproni

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With such quality pictures as BABY JANE and CHARLOTTE behind her, Davis continued to find relatively steady work in movies in cheaper, less formidable Grande Dame Guignol outings.

Here is a clip from THE ANNIVERSARY she did in 1968.

 

Caproni

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WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE? premiered in 1969, seven years after the genre was ignited with BABY JANE. The title makes me think that maybe... just maybe... this movie might've starred Davis and Crawford if they had gotten their acts together and completed CHARLOTTE as originally planned. The theatrical even says that what happened to AUNT ALICE is "scarier than what happened to BABY JANE", comparing the two right off the bat, while doing its best to elevate the latter.


Somewhere out there I read there was another movie to be made that was titled WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO DEAR ALVA?, which I'd be willing to bet concerned the falling away of some former newspaper advice columnist. One wonders if these could've been another Davis-Crawford vehicle, and what other actresses might've been tabled for leading roles in the never-made picture.​
 

Caproni

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What y'all think? Modern-day Grande Dame Guignol?

 

Caproni

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A good photo of Olivia and Bette from CHARLOTTE.

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Caproni

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I watched THE NANNY yesterday for the first time entirely. Before I had stirred away from this movie basically because it was British, and I know some of their mid-'60s horror flicks can be cheesy. There was also the rumor that I had heard repeated for years that THE NANNY -- like other films of the time -- was a poor imitation of BABY JANE, and therefore simply not as good. But a lot of Bette's fans countered those claims, proclaiming this to be one of her finest on-screen portrayals.

There were several things I liked about this film. First, one cannot leave a Bette Davis film and not be compelled by the performance she gave. Bette plays the nameless title character here, a tidbit that I think only serves to heighten the proposed notion that Nanny isn't what she's cracked up to be. Her consistent performance strengthens this movie and saves it from being completely campy. The cast members around her are also quite good, especially William Dix as a young master Joey, and Jill Bennett as the boy's Aunt Pen.

Singling out Bette is quite easy to do because she brings such nuance to a character that, in less capable hands, would've been viewed as strictly villainous. Of course, we know that this movie aims to allude to the fact that Nanny isn't all sunshine, but Davis brings layers that make you question whether she's victim or the suspect.

Another thing that I'll give THE NANNY kudos for is its B&W cinematography. Grande dame guignol films are especially good when they're accompanied with some stylish B&W camera work. Props should also be given to the level of tension this movie conveys from all areas of the story. Practically the entire run time one sits on the edge of their seat wondering if Nanny is going to snap or if Joey is going to be the culprit. That's good movie-making regardless of the genre.

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Having watched it now, I can understand why many fans of the hagsploitation sub-genre hold THE NANNY in such high regard. It is quite a good film, and proves that films outside of BABY JANE and CHARLOTTE can be of good quality and execution. All it takes is a good script, director, good B&W camera work, the right Old Hollywood diva to make a good hag horror. And this film mixes up all the ingredients quite nicely.

In saying all that, I know I still like BABY JANE more than THE NANNY, with the primary reason being that I cannot get over such a dynamic pairing of Davis and Crawford in one outstanding picture. Once I revisit CHARLOTTE, I can reassess where the movies would fall in a trio ranking, although I wouldn't be scared to say that THE NANNY might've pushed CHARLOTTE out of second place. Of course, I can't necessarily say for sure until I've reviewed the latter again.​
 
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