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Oh, Blanche? You know we've got rats in the cellar?

With WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, director Robert Aldrich created a highly effective, incredibly disturbing and ultimately tragic piece of psychological horror, one which has gone on to become regarded as a classic of the genre. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? was a difficult project to get off the ground, and Aldrich found himself dealing with studio reluctance concerning the subject matter or film, as well as Aldrich’s choices for leading actresses. Of course, Aldrich was vindicated when the film turned out to be enormously popular with the public, even with "unbankable has-beens" portraying the film’s two central characters.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as Jane Hudson and her sister Blanche. During her childhood, Baby Jane Hudson was an enormously popular and spoiled child star in vaudeville. Her sister Blanche achieved fame later in life, becoming a top Hollywood boxoffice draw. Unfortunately, Jane was unable to make the transition from child star to adult actress, although Blanche allowed Jane to ride her coattails, even when the studio wanted no part of her. However, one night after a Hollywood party, there is a terrible accident, one that changes the lives of both sisters forever.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? then flashes forward a good thirty years, where we find Blanche confined to a wheelchair due to the accident. Out of a sense of guilt, Jane has remained with her sister all these years, but time has been unkind to her. Jane is a terrible alcoholic who teeters close to a complete mental breakdown. Blanche realizes that Jane needs help and decides to sell their home to get Jane the help she so desperately needs. Unfortunately for Blanche, Jane discovers her sister’s plans, which drives her completely over the edge. Thus, Jane begins a reign of psychological and physical torture against her invalid sister, while at the same time, making delusional plans for Baby Jane’s big comeback.

Baby Jane Hudson is a horrifying character, one that seethes with the rage of a spoiled child, yet Davis brings a subtle poignancy to the role, making Jane a sympathetic victim of her circumstances. Bette Davis received a much-deserved Academy Award nomination for her brave and disturbing performance. Designing the garish Baby Jane makeup herself, Davis created a look that is pathetic, comic, but ultimately horrific. Joan Crawford gives an equally strong performance as the crippled and victimized Blanche, who sticks by her sister for her own very personal reasons. Victor Buono made quite an impression with his screen debut in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?. Buono’s portrayal of a mother-dominated musician looking to break away from her and ingratiate himself into the life of Baby Jane Hudson, earned the character actor an Academy Award nomination. The cast of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? also features Anna Lee, Barbara Merrill, Robert Cornthwaite, Marjorie Bennett and Maidie Norman.

Warner Home Video has made WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is offered up with a superb 1080p black and white presentation that will thrill fans of this tragic, psychological horror classic. Ernest Haller's Oscar nominated cinematography is fairly glorious here. Image sharpness and detail are excellent, close-ups render a phenomenal amount of visual information and texturing- every line in both leading actress' faces are readily evident, with Bette Davis' garish makeup never appearing more frightening or pathetic. Blacks are truly inky, while the whites are pure. Contrast and grayscale are excellent, with plenty of nuance being readily apparent in the image. The elements from which WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? have been transferred are free from excessive signs of age and rear. A grain structure is visible throughout and it maintains an organic quality for the presentation.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. As expected with this type of vintage soundtrack, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? demonstrates some limitations in fidelity. Even with the lossless encode, the sound is a little thinner than modern recordings, but the sound effects and Frank DeVol's musical score come across well enough. The soundtrack has been digitally scrubbed to remove most signs of background hiss and surface noise. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplements which have been ported from the previous DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with Charles Busch and John Epperson (Lypsinka). Next up is Bette And Joan: Blind Ambition, a twenty nine minute program that examines the careers of the two stars, as well as looking at the one film in which they costarred. Next up is the vintage featurette, Behind The Scenes With Baby Jane, which was made to promote the production of the film. From 1994, we have All About Bette, a forty-eight profile of the actress that looks at the films that made her a screen legend. A Film Profile: Joan Crawford is another vintage program that runs twenty-eight minutes and looks at the career of Davis’ BABY JANE costar. Next is an excerpt from The Andy Williams Show featuring Bette Davis singing the movie’s theme song. A Theatrical Trailer and a What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Dan-O-Rama Movie Mix closes out the supplements. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? features book styled packaging that contains forty pages of photos and production notes.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? remains a potent film featuring potent performances from two legendary actresses. The Blu-ray offers an excellent image and solid audio. Highly recommended.


What Ever Happened To Baby Jane: 50th Anniversary [Blu-ray]


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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