Joan Crawford from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? since the campy masterpiece was released in 1962. Writer/director William Clift had a different idea, and the results are startling. Baby Jane? is a faithful remake of the original, with an almost all-male cast. It’s shot in black and white. Rather than go for the easy laughs, it plays things fairly straight, pardon the term.
Matthew Martin is popular in San Francisco, especially when he plays Bette onstage in the hilarious Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte! or when he imitates All About Eve's Margo Channing. His Baby Jane is more than an impersonation — he mines the part for all the humor and pathos he can, and makes you care for his caricature.
J. Conrad Frank, a.k.a. Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, makes a regally long-suffering Blanche, confined to a wheelchair since the horrible accident Jane believes she caused years ago. The two sisters are bound together by need and hatred, while Jane covets a return to the stardom she had as a child vaudeville headliner. When Jane discovers that Blanche plans to sell the house and institutionalize her, she doesn’t take it well, to put it mildly. No pet parakeet or housekeeper is safe, as the story spins out of control.
The cast includes San Francisco luminaries, like Trannyshack founder Heklina and burlesque cabaret performer Alotta Boutté. Clift shows great promise as a director, although the pacing lags at times.
The film is playing at festivals. For more groovy and gruesome fun and information (including the film's trailer), check out the official website of Baby Jane?
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.