By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Bette eats them up.
Since tomorrow will mark the 1st anniversary of when this blog started I wanted to choose a movie that had a similar theme in its title. The anniversary here deals with Mrs. Taggart (Bette Davis) celebrating the date of when her and her now deceased husband where married. Taggart is a bully who enjoys manipulating her grown sons and having her way. On this occasion all three of her sons carries a secret, which will all slowly come out as the evening progresses. Terry (Jack Hedley) is the oldest and is married to Karen (Sheila Hancock) their secret is that they plan on moving to Canada much to his mother’s dismay as she likes having her children close by. Henry (James Cossins) harbors a secret fetish to dress in women’s underwear. Tom (Christian Roberts) brings his fiancée Shirley (Elaine Taylor) to visit with their secret being that she is already pregnant.
If you’re a Bette Davis fan then this is required viewing as she is at her bitchy best. Although Mona Washbourne played the role when it was on stage it was revised by Jimmy Sangster for the screen with Davis’s personality very much in mind. It has all of her famous caricatures and she revels in it. Her insults are like arrows that slice through the other characters until they are mush. She gives her part just the right amount of camp and her infatuation with a statue of a little boy that is hooked up with a hose that when squeezed spurts water out of its front end like he is peeing is priceless.
Hancock makes for a good adversary and in fact out of all the other performers she is the only that seems to be able to stay toe-to-toe with Davis. Apparently Davis did not like Hancock and tried to get her replaced with Jill Bennett. Hancock was aware of this and I think that animosity comes out perfectly on the screen.
Taylor is young and gorgeous and she has one good moment when she tells off Davis, but that is about it. The three male actors are just not as effective as the females. Part of it could be the characters that they play, but on the most part they are rather blah.
Director Roy Ward Baker, who replaced Alvin Rakoff one week into the shooting at Miss Davis’s request, does his best to avoid the filmed stage play look. He opens the movie at an outdoor construction site, which is unusual. He also has a dazzling fireworks display in the middle, but my favorite is when Henry steals women’s bras and panties from an outside clothesline and replaces them with dollar bills in an attempt to ‘pay’ for what he is stealing. Yet despite all this the movie eventually gets stagy and becomes a bit draggy for it.
My biggest complaint is the fact that this type of thing has been done before. There is no new angle or perspective to any of it. Davis rants on and on with the other characters too cowardly to fight back. The little that they do is not enough. This is the type of film that screams for a big payoff, but it never happens. Taggart, as mean as she is, comes through it pretty much unscathed and for most viewers that will probably not be satisfying.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: February 7, 1968
Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes
Rated NR (Not Rated)
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Davis’ last iconic role and an enjoyable film. Imagine what Almodovar could have done with the material. It’s handled in a pedestrian manner.
Davis has a field day in this, the last really good role she had in films.