Movie Notes: Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Note: This is an entry in the second Webomatica So Bad They’re Good movie contest.
= 3 stars
Starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorhead
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) lives alone in a huge Louisiana plantation house, harboring a dark past – her lover John Mayhew was murdered. The townsfolk believe Charlotte was responsible – or was she?
- Inventive direction.
- Really brash, borderline campy performances.
- At a fancy, southern ball, Charlotte threatens to kill the cad that dumped her. The camera moves in on a meat cleaver – well, my distaste of horror movies is being exploited. Oh hell, the meat cleaver, the bloody stump, the fake hand, oh, Hitchcock wants his suspense back.
- Now Charlotte has a big bloody stain on her dress in a decidedly inappropriate place. Was this a particularly bad time of the month?
- I imagine the director screaming during the filming of the credits – You’re sad! You’re scared! You smashed a butterfly! Remember how you chopped that hand off! Pretend it was your hand!
- Charlotte in a nightgown, fires a shotgun at a bulldozer. Entering camptastic Mommie Dearest territory.
- Awesome confrontation between Charlotte and her younger cousin, Miriam (Olivia de Havilland). “You’re a vile, sorry little bitch!” Bette Davis slashes and burns her way through this scene – it’s classic acting through extreme facial expressions.
- Uh… so someone’s leaving the meat cleaver and a hand around, and moving her music box around to try to scare the old bird? What’s behind that scary door? What happened to the mirrors? Charlotte, what have you done?
- So someone is toying with poor Charlotte. They must be after inheritance money. The Scooby gang should check this out.
- Oh whoops. Cousin carries a box and drops a dummy head down the stairs. Charlotte passes out.
- Oh good, the housekeeper Velma (Agnes Moorehead) is going to do some investigations into what’s going on. Wait, Velma? Is this the Scooby gang?
- Confrontation on the stairwell. I might guess someone is gonna take a spill. Yep, Velma falls down the stairs. Charlotte is like, totally screwed.
- Heh – the old dude plays and sings “Hush, hush, Sweet Charlotte” while playing the harpsichord. Cornball-o-rama. Now we get drugs.
- She holds a gun but thinks it’s a rose bouquet. Enters a trippy dream sequence with blown-out whites.
- Eventually it’s clear that the cousin and her husband intend to drive Charlotte mad. Husband pretends to be shot. Great scene of Charlotte freaking out in the car.
- Charlotte overhears the two discussing them in the courtyard below, and Charlotte pushes a stone urn onto them, crushing them.
The exaggerated direction make this flick seem like Citizen Kane, Gone With The Wind, and Psycho put in a blender. Then add a much older Havilland (Gone With The Wind), Moorhead (Citizen Kane), and Cotten (Citizen Kane) and Davis (All About Eve), all classic movie actors burning up the screen with an overdose of acting talent to pulverize a weak plot into oblivion.
I was slightly dismayed to see former screen greats trapped in this sort of camp horror. There should be a government program to keep aged stars from damaging their past reputations via sub-par movies. I’d like to nominate Diane Keaton for this social security service.
Still – surprise, surprise – I enjoyed this film is too much to consider it truly so-bad-it’s-good. There are enough interesting things going on to actually give it 3 stars on the “good” scale.