Spherical Panavision - 1.66:1
Written by: Henry Farrell and Lukas Heller
Directed by: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Betty Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead, Cecil Kellaway, Victor Buono, Mary Astor, Bruce Dern, William Campbell, George Kennedy
Following up on the incredible success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, director Robert Aldrich and crew reunited to bring Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte to the silver screen. Aldrich wanted Baby Jane stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford to appear in another film together, but since the two actresses didn't get along with each other, they wanted nothing to do with it. Eventually, Aldrich did come up with a film project which both actresses agreed to appear in (can you guess which one?), but wouldn't you know it, Crawford became very ill right before filming started and another actress had to be found to replace her. Even without Crawford, though, Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte turns out to be creepy fun just the same, and the ensemble cast and storyline are superb!
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte is an eerie tale that combines elements of a Southern gothic variety with both horror and psychological drama. The opening prolog is a real shocker and completely unexpected (it must have scared the pants off audiences of the time), and it sets up the mood for the entire picture. The time is 1927 and Charlotte Hollis (Davis) is a young woman having the time of her life at a party thrown by her father, rich plantation owner Big Sam (Victor Buono). Charlotte's happiness is cut short when she is rejected by lover John Mayhew (Bruce Dern), who shortly thereafter finds himself without a head, a hand or a life. Moving to the present day, we find Charlotte aged, crazed and shunned by the locals who think she murdered her lover those many years earlier. Charlotte's maid, Velma (Agnes Moorehead), is her sole companion...at least until cousin Miriam (Olivia DeHavilland) shows up to help with things. Miriam's presence somehow causes Charlotte to become haunted by the ghosts from her terrible past, and Charlotte slowly finds herself walking the road to madness. Did Charlotte really murder her lover, or has something else been afoot all those years? Also appearing in the film are Joseph Cotten, Cecil Kellaway, Mary Astor, William Campbell and George Kennedy.
Fox Video's transfer of Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte has a sharp focus, contrasts and black levels that are very pleasing, and source materials which exhibit minimal flaws. Side three is in CAV and has the steady still frames we've come to expect on discs. But while all that is very encouraging, many people won't be pleased with one other thing Fox did with their transfer - even though the opening and closing credits are letterboxed with an approx. 1.58:1 aspect ratio, Fox left the rest of the film in a moderately cropped state. Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte was not a widescreen production (it was filmed in the Spherical Panavision 1.66:1 ratio), but as Aldrich uses the available imagery to the fullest, Fox's cropping ensures that characters are constantly (and noticeably) being cut off to some degree on the sides. The CX-encoded digital mono isn't perfect, but it's fine just the same. This two-disc set was pressed at Sony, is Table of Contents encoded, and contains 22 mostly-listed chapter markers (unlisted #21 is a Chace Home Theatre Sound Check, #22 is color bars and tone). An in-depth behind-the-scenes essay appears on the back cover, detailing the film's production history as well as the Davis/Crawford conflict.
Review by Jeff Krispow
Originally Published in "Pond
Original Review: 03/92
Last Updated: 04/24/97