Wednesday, 29 January 2020

What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? - 1969 film review

No sooner did film audiences of the 60s discover the fate of Baby Jane than they had to find out the mystery concerning Aunt Alice's demise. What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? was produced by Robert Aldrich and based on The Forbidden Garden, a 1962 novel by the talented suspense writer Ursula Curtiss.

I've not read the book, although Francis Iles admired it, which is a good enough recommendation, so I've put it on my list. The film utilises the plot material for a black comedy about a homicidal widow, Claire Marrable, played with gusto and no little flair by Geraldine Page. She doesn't mourn the death of her husband, but isn't happy to find he's left her destitute. She moves to Arizona and seeks to solve her financial problems by hiring single women as housekeepers, getting them to entrust their savings to them, killing them, and burying them in her garden.

Although in many ways she really is not very bright, she pursues her m.o. with some success, until she hires a new companion, played splendidly by the redoubtable Ruth Gordon. We soon find out that she is really trying to figure out what happened to her predecessor in the role, who happened to be an old friend. A battle of wits between the two women ensues.

The plot complications are handled nicely and the two women in the lead roles are terrific, and although I tend to agree with the critic who thought that the script was underdeveloped, it is still entertaining. Apparently it falls within the sub-genre of so-called "psycho-biddy" films of its era. Hmmm....My main reservation was that Gerald Fried's soundtrack was obtrusive and didn't seem to fit. But that's a quibble. It's a good film. 

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