It’s a cliché but it’s true: camp men really do love Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. As if to prove the point, the commentary for Robert Aldrich’s fabulously macabre Hollywood noir comes courtesy of Charles Busch and John Epperson, two writer/performers discussing Joan and Bette’s hair, make-up and shoes.
Crawford plays Hollywood star Blanche Hudson, wheelchair-bound after a tragic car accident and living in her spooky old mansion with former child star sister Jane (Davis), a bitter, delusional harpy who, under mounds of make-up, still dreams about her days in the spotlight. As what’s left of their fraught relationship disintegrates before our eyes, Aldrich ramps up the bitchery, cruelty and terror via dead rats, canaries served up on platters, and old movie clips, producing a nerve-jangling thriller that wasn’t originally intended to be so gay-friendly. Davis earned a tenth Oscar nomination for her tour de force performance and the film made her bankable again, kick-starting what Busch and Epperson call “a cycle of Grand Dame Guignol movies.”
The extras are a choice bunch, including an engrossing 45- minute career doc on Davis hosted by Jodie Foster, a fascinating ’60s BBC interview with Crawford, and a frustratingly brief Making Of from the time. They really don’t make stars like they used to.