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Aging Actresses Turned Ax Murderer Movies - Hack Hack Sweet Has Been

  • Nov 9, 2011
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In the 1960's the aging actresses from the golden age of movies were not treated with the greatest respect. Most of them ended up playing in grand guignol style horror movies where they were either the maniacal murderer, or the victim. Bette Davis and John Crawford set the trend with their classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Mad Magazine picked up on the trend and had a satire in the magazine one month called Hack Hack Sweet Has Been. So here is my list of Aging Actress Turned Ax Murderer films.
Whatever happened to Baby Jane
This is grand daddy of all aging actress turned ax murderer movies. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane sets the standard of the genre. With Bette Davis chewing every piece of scenery on the set and Joan Crawford left in a wheel chair to watch her steal the movie, its all you can ask for in a grand guiginol classic. Bette screams classic lines that have become familiar to all movie fans. "But ya are in the chair Blanche, ya are." But personally I do not see this as a horror film. It more a very sad dramatic story of a dysfunctional family. Bette is not the maniacal monster in the end, Joan is real monster who has used her sister and driven her insane. Bette's closing moments dancing on the beach always make me emotional. Add Victor Buono for more drama and fun. Its a dark film played to the hilt by its stars. Bette received a well deserved academy award nomination for the film. And in true Blanche fashion Joan one ups her at the ceremony collecting the award for the winning actress Anne Bancroft. Bette is tragic in this film. From her make up to her singing of I'm Writing A Letter To Daddy, she did not care how she looked or sounded. She only cared about the character and giving it her everything.
See the full review, "Bette chews the scenery in grand style in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane".
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte
If Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is the grand daddy of all aging actress turned ax murder movie, then this is its step child. I think it often gets overlooked by Baby Jane and its fans, but for me Ilike this one even better. Why? Because its more emotional and moving. Charlottes exit from her home in the end leaves me in tears each time I watch this movie. True there is more blood, more gore, and more horror than Baby Jane, but I think the story is richer and more fun. Its a love triangle gone bad leaving Bette once more to be the victim in the end. Olivia de Havilland takes Joan Crawford place in this one. Agnes Moorehead manages to chew more scenery than Bette. And add Joseph Cotton for good measure. Returning from Baby Jane in a cameo is Victor Buono.
Die! Die! My Darling!
Tallulah Bankhead has her turn at grand guignol scenery chewing in Die! Die! My Darling. Also known as Fanatic in the UK this film pits the maniacal Tallulah against the young and beautiful Stephanie Powers. Stephanie is held prisoner so she can not marry after her engagement to Tallulah son's ends with his suicide. Donald Sutherland has an early role as a slow mute man in this movie. Its bizarre, violent, and great fun. The fact that Stephanie Powers is still one of my favorite actresses makes me like this movie even more.
The Nanny
Another sad story for Bette Davis. Once more she is not a true monster, but a confused character life has left behind. The story involves a child who was drowned in a bathtub, her brother her is terrified he will be the next victim, and Bette's character who really does love the children. True she murders their aunt in the story, so she is not a complete innocent, but her character basically is not a bad person at heart.
Joan Crawford's character owns a circus in this film that is down on its luck. But what circus in any movie is not down on its luck. Suddenly accidents start to occur which helps the circus to regain some of its success. But who is causing the accidents. Joan or her daughter played by Judy Geeson. There is no doubt who the villain and who the victim is, but it is fun watching.
Straight Jacket
Joan Crawford returns. My favorite part about this film is not the story. Forget it. Its not memorable. My favorite part is watching the lighting. No matter where Joan is located, or where the lights are on the set, there is always a dark shadow hiding the lines in her neck. Joan is getting on in years and does not want anyone to see those lines. Her lighting man should have gotten an oscar for best special effects. I also think the DVD picture cover is fantastic with Joan holding a hatchet. Its worth the price of buying the DVD.
Who Slew Auntie Roo?
Shelley Winters has her turn to play the aging actress turned ax murderer. This time its a retelling the Hansel and Gretel story. Not a great movie. Shelley is not quite up to standards set by Bette Davis in Baby Jane. But still fun to watch if you catch on a late night movie. Shelley is always fun to watch even when she is bad.
What's The Matter With Helen
Its Debbie Reynolds turn in this one. And this one is very creepy in my opinion. Shelley Winters also returns to the genre in this film. Dennis Weaver is also in the movie. Two middle ages women open a dance school allowing Debbie to sing and dance a little in the movie. And then the scary stuff starts. So who is the victim in this one Shelley or Debbie. Lets just say Shelley gets a chance to go over the top once more. Fun and creepy.
The Night Walker
And finally its Barbara Stanwycks turn in this movie. And its my least favorite on this list.

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November 11, 2011
Great list, Larry! I've only seen #1, so I'm going to have to check some of these out. I had no clue there was a genre, let alone films that fit this description. Thanks for sharing :)
About the list creator
Larry Sampson ()
Ranked #201
I am a retired Federal employee. I worked for 34 years for the Civil Service. When I retired I was working at The Library of Congress in Washington DC. I was able to retire at a somewhat young age of … more
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