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What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?

What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?

It’s cold-blooded homicide, I inform ya!  Feisty Ruth Gordon goes undercover to seek out the proof of murder at Geraldine Web page’s desert residence, the place companion-housekeepers hold disappearing. Robert Aldrich produced this marvelous, E-Ticket battle between celebrated actresses, and the result’s a artistic new answer for retirement finance issues!

What Ever Occurred to Aunt Alice?
KL Studio Classics
1969 / Shade / 1:85 widescreen / 101 min. / Road Date January eight, 2019 / out there by way of Kino Lorber / 29.95
Starring: Geraldine Web page, Ruth Gordon, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Fuller, Mildred Dunnock, Joan Huntington, Peter Brandon, Michael Barbera, Peter Bonerz, Richard Angarola, Claire Kelly, Valerie Allen, Martin Garralaga.
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Movie Editors: Frank J. Urioste, Michael Luciano
Unique Music: Gerald Fried
Written by Theodore Apstein from a novel by Ursula Curtiss
Produced by Robert Aldrich
Directed by Lee H. Katzin (and Bernard Girard)


Few followers of Robert Aldrich’s The Soiled Dozen understand that he used the windfall income from that enormously profitable present to open his personal movie studio, in amenities previously referred to as The Sutherland Studio. His ‘Associates and Aldrich’ firm made a cope with ABC Footage, and over the subsequent three years he directed three footage: the X-rated The Killing of Sister George, the conflict drama Too Late the Hero and the gangster story The Grissom Gang. Aldrich took a credit score as producer however didn’t direct What Ever Occurred to Aunt Alice?a low-budget Grand Guignol thriller that succeeds in ways in which extra outrageous horror thrillers don’t. The one different image Aldrich produced with out additionally directing is The Experience Again with Anthony Quinn, again in 1957.


Some reviewers didn’t think about this a horror thriller, however solely the shortage of a psychological ‘curse from the previous’ distinguishes it from Aldrich’s earlier successes What Ever Occurred to Child Jane?   and Hush, Hush Candy Charlotte. ABC Footage probably green-lit Aunt Alice on the idea of its sound-alike title. It doesn’t precisely match into the mainstream of ‘hag horror,’ as its main star was solely 44 years of age throughout filming. Or does that merely inform the reality about pictures of girls in movie?

Robert Aldrich’s picked director Bernard Girard (Lifeless Warmth on a Merry-Go-Spherical) shot the primary half of Aunt Alice however was changed with TV’s Lee H. Katzin. It’s fascinating that the tough-minded Aldrich, after 25 years navigating the robust finish of the film enterprise, discovered himself able the place he needed to rent and hearth. Solely twelve years earlier than, Columbia’s Harry Cohn fired Aldrich from The Garment Jungle and tried to make him unemployable in Hollywood.

Together with his new studio in hand, Aldrich took benefit of the brand new score system and was specializing in alarming films about surprising content material. Aunt Alice might have been uncontroversial, however the appearing has a unique high quality than Aldrich’s private fashion of direct battle. His The Legend of Lylah Clare is just badly directed for performances; a lot of it’s gratingly excessive. The peerless Geraldine Web page and Ruth Gordon didn’t want a director to tune their performances, however Girard and Katzin must be congratulated anyway. The delicate cat & mouse video games between these two is what grabbed the viewers, incomes applause on the screening I caught.


The essential story is a distaff model of Chaplin’s business-as-usual homicide story Monsieur Verdoux, minus the anti-capitalist philosophy. Spoiled Los Angeles housewife Clare Marrable (Geraldine Web page) is shocked to find that her late husband was broke; he’s bequeathed her a field of ineffective gadgets however she’s going to lose every part. Maybe two years later Clare is in a secluded home within the Arizona desert, being waited on by the newest in a collection of aged housekeeper-companions. Clare makes ends meet by way of homicide: she chooses widowed companion-servants with few relations, and retains them on their toes by making them really feel as in the event that they’re completely insufficient. After taking every housekeeper’s financial savings for funding by her ‘sensible’ cash supervisor, Clare kills her and crops a brand new pine tree over her shallowly-buried physique. Clare is on her fourth tree when Alice Dimmock (Ruth Gordon) exhibits up as the newest alternative. Dimmock is just not like her timid predecessor, Miss Tinsley (Mildred Dunnock). She challenges a few of Clare’s imperious behaviors and places up with others… and units to looking for proof that Clare is a murderess. Complicating issues are Mike Darrah (Robert Fuller), a good-looking native who snoops round the home, and strikes up a friendship with Clare’s unwelcome new neighbor Harriet Vaughn (Rosemary Fosyth) and her mischievous son Jim (Michael Barbera). Clare is rudely suspicious of all of them, particularly when Harriet’s canine develops an curiosity in these aforementioned pine timber. Alice’s investigation is a dangerous one, for Clare is as perceptive as she is manipulative.

Saying any extra concerning the diversified secrets and techniques and motives of the characters in What Ever Occurred to Aunt Alice? would do that superior thriller an injustice. The supremely gifted and versatile Web page and Gordon add drastically to each scene with their complicated character interpretations. The actresses targeted their skills on flamboyant eccentricities of their films Candy Fowl of Youth and Rosemary’s Child, however they provide the identical consideration to this modest homicide thriller. Is Alice a lamb in a lion’s den, or will her sense of justice be robust sufficient to counter the intimidating, entitled Clare?   In a key dialogue change, Clare declares that a assassin should present actual braveness, whereas Alice responds that homicide solely requires nerve and cruelty.


We’re informed that, roughly talking, Bernard Girard directed the exteriors and different scenes filmed close to Tucson, Arizona. Lee Katzin’s scenes have been these shot again in Los Angeles, on the Aldrich Studio. The movie appears all of a bit, extra proof that the women doubtless wanted little path. Ace cameraman Joe Biroc doubtless helped with the movie’s versatile digital camera course — the angles chosen all the time favor the 2 actresses. Ruth Gordon bites her lip whereas rigorously planning her subsequent transfer; Geraldine Web page smiles at her personal cleverness, regularly laughing just like the cat that swallowed the canary.

Neither star was primarily a movie actress. We’re used to seeing them play schemers or barely addled, egocentric females; Ruth Gordon was endearing in Harold and Maude however that half was a comic book character, a fantasy eccentric. Aunt Alice will be the solely film through which Gordon is a sympathetic heroine in deep trouble. Each ‘clue’ put earlier than the digital camera leads us to fret concerning the anticipated, inevitable thriller twists to return: a Bible, numerous notes, letters, a postcard; a wheelchair, a pink scarf, even a e-book of postage stamps.


Screenwriter Theodore Apstein hasn’t a stellar profession, however his dialogue performs nicely. The sneaky actions of Clare and Alice are straightforward to comply with. It’s a film of robust character identification, not fancy director’s tips. Geraldine Web page’s nasty murderess places up such an exquisite entrance that its unimaginable to not admire her.

Of the supporting forged Robert Fuller holds up his finish simply advantageous as a involved … no particulars, please. Rosemary Forsyth is even higher because the neighbor Clare foolishly misjudges. The opposite face of observe is that of Joan Huntington, a pretty however promiscuous member of the social set who serves as kind of an ethical various to Forsyth’s straight arrow. With out overstating the case, Aunt Alice presents most of its ‘upstanding’ characters as socially duplicitous, hiding their true personalities and wishes. On this type of state of affairs, Clare Marrable’s finicky eccentricities don’t appeal to suspicion.

Audiences in 1969 knew higher than to anticipate a cheerful ending, not after a decade of ‘psycho-‘ sort horror pix with typically appalling finales. In truth, the late ’60s and early ’70s have been rife with grim, bad-news conclusions… from Rosemary’s Child and The Mephisto Waltz to The Different.


I used to be stunned to study that Aunt Alice was deemed a flop when new — as I say, the viewers I noticed it with liked it. Potential causes may be that the general public had uninterested in the ‘hag horror’ style, with identify actresses committing bloody homicide — regardless that Alice has just a few seconds of gore-free violence and a strong 100 minutes of excellent suspense. I can level to 2 probably causes. The Guignol title and the grim advert marketing campaign displaying a half-buried feminine face would have led audiences to anticipate a horror film with graphic gore. That, and (spoiler) the film’s downbeat ending was completely pointless. The movie’s actual attraction is seeing ‘that witch’ from Rosemary’s Child as a splendidly feisty, constructive heroine, and the chosen finale just isn’t the type to generate feel-good phrase of mouth.

What number of homicide thrillers are there that concern older adults (or non-teenagers, for that matter)?  That thought jogs my memory of a really efficient semi-comic murder-horror movie from 1974 referred to as Homebodies, directed by Larry Yust. When a brownstone condo constructing is posted for demolition, the ‘powerless’ aged tenants take issues into their very own palms and begin killing builders and even development staff. The sense of empowerment, preventing again, is surprisingly liberating.  Clare Marrable might a grasping assassin, however she shares the plight of many older people who discover themselves alone and poor. We Child Boomers are about to unbalance each social program on the books… and most of us aren’t as safe because the joyful individuals within the pernicious TV commercials about retirement funding planning.

Confirmed gorehounds and giallo canine may be suggested to look elsewhere, however others serious about a battle of wits between two actually sensible previous dames will get a kick out of the superior What Ever Occurred to Aunt Alice?


The KL Studio Classics Blu-ray of What Ever Occurred to Aunt Alice? provides us this modest however spectacular image in a clear and vibrant presentation, in its correct facet ratio. We’re pulled in by the 2 star performances; the modifying is so good of their scenes, that the film is a wonderful mannequin for research.

The soundtrack options slightly barnstorming music rating from composer Gerald Fried. Because the film unspools in sluggish suspense versus violent set-pieces, Fried might have been tasked with offering a way of menace throughout transitions — particularly when the digital camera cuts away to that row of very wholesome pine timber rising to the aspect of Clare Marrable’s desert home. A sting of deja-vu kicks in when Fried’s cues revive the blaring emphatic high quality of his 1950s horror music: The Return of Dracula, I Bury the Dwelling.

Some trailers are hooked up, however the additional of observe is a vigorous audio commentary by the completed Richard Harland Smith. He applies his typical logic and basic movie information to the monitor, however he’s additionally achieved sufficient analysis to uncover the story behind Robert Aldrich and his short-lived unbiased Hollywood studio. Courtesy of some serialized protection in a Tucson newspaper, we hear loads of details about the precise movie shoot, too. Richard’s opinions and viewpoint are all the time considerate and nicely reasoned, and his actor profiles are by no means only a record of credit.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

What Ever Occurred to Aunt Alice?
Blu-ray charges:
Film: Very Good ++
Video: Wonderful
Sound: Wonderful
Dietary supplements: Commentary by Richard Harland Smith, Trailer
Deaf and Listening to Impaired Pleasant? YES; Subtitles: English (function solely)
Packaging: Maintain case
Reviewed: February 17, 2019

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