Releasing in a 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, the 1962 classic "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" brings a memorable on-screen rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford through roles that revived their flagging careers during the said time. These two Hollywood icons shine with stunningly creepy and disturbing performances in this psychological thriller by Robert Aldrich. Here, Davis won her 10th Academy Award nomination for her acid portrayal of the grotesque title role of Baby Jane. This dark, strange, and unsettling melodrama also received the Oscar for Best Costume Design (Black and White), along with three other nominations.
The story revolves around the sibling rivalry of two aging ex-Hollywood stars living together in a decaying mansion, one a bitter former child star and the other a glamorous movie queen who eclipsed her sister's earlier fame, but unfortunately forced into early retirement after a crippling car accident. The older, spiteful sister assumes the role of caretaker, while still living under the shadows of her sister's money and long-adored public image. However, her deteriorating mental and emotional states prompt her to begin a campaign of terror against her helpless sister.
The film's Oscar-nominated black-and-white cinematography looks great in HD format. The beautiful light-dark imagery consistently showcases whites that never bloom and blacks that are always deep and finely gradated. As a wildly over-the-top shocker, the picture's garishly lit scenes and intact grain structure work well with the story's required mood and texture.
Fine details can be a bit limited in some wide and establishing shots. But overall, this half-a-century-old cinematic opus remains pleasing throughout its running time. No evidence of excessive digital manipulation or serious age-related artifacts plague the transfer.
The disc supplies a lossless mono track accompanied by dubbed mono options in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian. The understandably narrow mix retains a fairly acceptable dynamic range for such a dated material. Although it reveals some very slight distortions in the midrange, the engrossing story makes these pretty negligible. No signs of crackles, hisses, and aural distortions can be heard anywhere in the mix.
Minor qualms aside, the soundtrack fares quite well in managing the narrative's delightful combination of camp, drama, comedy, and horror. Speaking lines are crisp and clean for the most part. The musical score and sound effects are firmly presented in the presentation.
This anniversary package houses a couple of extras including a fun and informative audio commentary by Charles Busch and John Epperson, the Davis and Crawford featurette "Bette and Joan: Blind Ambition," the vintage production featurette "Behind the Scenes with Baby Jane," a copy of Davis' guesting in "The Andy Williams Show," the Jodie Foster-hosted Davis feature "All About Bette," the Philip Jenkinson-hosted Crawford feature "Film Profile: Joan Crawford," the campy and kitschy video remix "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Dan-O-Rama Movie Mix," and the film's theatrical trailer. All videos are presented in SD format. Subtitle options are available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" effectively plays around the thin line between horror and wacky humor. As a late-career offering from Davis and Crawford, this expertly handled piece impressively renews these two legendary actresses' movie star capital. Even after getting past their prime, their uncanny tandem convincingly puts enough gothic craziness to a rare, old-school picture that continues to capture audiences many decades after. These ladies root their own sort of reality in dealing with their characters' weirdly dysfunctional relationship, which ultimately makes the story work.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Joan Crawford
- Bette Davis