“Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?”
Revitalising the then-fading careers of two actresses who were Hollywood’s biggest stars in their heydays, and giving birth to a new subgenre of horror in the process, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is an often disturbing, at times chilling & thoroughly captivating example of hag horror that’s powered by outstanding lead performances from Bette Davis & Joan Crawford.
Directed by Robert Aldrich, the film quickly glances through the prime years of both sisters before the accident that puts its main plot into motion. The feeling of resentment, jealousy & hate is quite evident in the siblings’ relationship early in the story and it only intensifies as the plot progresses. Aldrich’s direction is brilliant, for it steadily ratchets up the bitterness between the two leading ladies and keep things tightly-knitted until the end.
Also benefitting the story as well as their own performances is the intense rivalry between the two former Hollywood stars, as their contempt for each other seeps into their on-screen roles and the scenes between the two seethes with a sharp-flavoured zest. Further amplifying its imagery are its fluid camerawork & first-rate lighting. Editing keeps the plot interesting and steadily paces it, while the background score stays in sync with the unfolding events.
Coming to the acting department, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is steered by Bette Davis & Joan Crawford, and the remaining cast is simply no match to the performance these two veteran actresses put on the screen. Davis embraces her old hag persona from inside out and fully dives into her role to deliver a truly manic, disturbing & deranged performance whereas Crawford chips in with a restrained input that was physically demanding and plays her part with quiet temperament.