NEW CONTENT COMING JULY 1, 2016
Sometimes the scariest monsters aren’t invaders from another planet or creatures stitched together by a mad scientist; they’re other people. You know, seemingly ordinary folks like you and me…except for one big difference: their need to kill. This installment of TERROR IN BLACK AND WHITE brings you face to face with three suspense classics from an era long before Investigation Discovery brought murder into our homes 24/7. You’ll meet a bedridden woman who wishes she had cut the cord, a truly twisted sister and the ultimate momma’s boy. Lock your doors…it’s going to be a bloody night.
DIRECTED BY: Anatole Litvak SCREENPLAY BY: Lucille Fletcher (based on her 1943 radio play of the same name) STARRING: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey and Ed Begley ORIGINAL US RELEASE: September 1, 1948 by Paramount Pictures.
In SORRY, WRONG NUMBER Stanwyck plays Leona Stevenson, the daughter of a wealthy drug company magnate. She’s a spoiled brat who could have been a woman of substance were it not for lifelong health issues that eventually rendered her bedridden. In reality, she’s a major hypochondriac and her illness is really psychosomatic. It’s a smart plot device that works on two levels. Leona Stevenson is the kind of flawed heroine that defines classic film noir. She might be a damsel in distress but she’s no sweet princess. Keeping her confined to the bedroom also allows the central mystery to build to an unsettling climax.
Leona relies on the telephone. It’s her connection to the world outside the four walls of her bedroom. In a cruel twist, crossed lines send Leona down a dark and dangerous rabbit hole. She inadvertently overhears part of a conversation between two men and realizes they are planning a murder.
With only a snippet of their plot revealed, Leona’s attempts to enlist the aid of the phone company and police fall flat. They need more information to go on. Her husband (Burt Lancaster) is out of town and the help is off for the night so Leona decides to go it alone and figure out who the would-be killers are targeting. Her solo sleuthing is juxtaposed with flashbacks that fill in her own life story and lead to one terrifying conclusion: Leona is the intended victim.
Barbara Stanwyck received her fourth and final Academy Award nomination as best actress for her portrayal of Leona Stevenson. It’s testimony to her considerable talent that she’s able to engender sympathy for a complex character many of us wouldn’t be pals with in real life. This taught, well-made film might not scream “scary movie” but, it is an effective suspense drama.
CLICK HERE to buy SORRY, WRONG NUMBER on DVD. As of this writing, there is still no announced date for a Blu-ray release of this title.
DIRECTED BY: Robert Aldrich SCREENPLAY BY: Lukas Heller (based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Henry Farrell) STARRING: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono and Maidie Norman ORIGINAL US RELEASE: October 31, 1962 by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Ever wonder what might happen if a former child sensation like Shirley Temple went way, WAY off the deep end as an adult? Look no further than WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? for a fictional dramatization of that very scenario.
Bette Davis plays “Baby Jane” Hudson, a faded star who was once the toast of the Vaudeville stage. As she gets older, her career flounders while that of sister Blanche (Crawford) takes off. This reversal of fortune sets off a powder keg once Jane turns to alcohol to dull the pain of her jealousy and lost fame. One night, after driving home from a party together, it appears as though Jane seizes the moment and runs down an unsuspecting Blanche. Clearly, hell hath no fury like a drunken has-been scorned…or does it?
Years later, the sisters are both forgotten relics, living together in a dilapidated Hollywood mansion. The “accident” paralyzed Blanche from the waist down, confining her to a wheelchair. Even worse for wear is Jane, who has not aged gracefully (mentally or physically). Teetering on the edge of sanity, she passes the time with her favorite hobby: subjecting Blanche to an increasingly “creative” battery of physical abuse and psychological torture. By the time this bleak and twisted tale careens to it’s tragic conclusion (including the reveal of what really happened the night Blanche was injured) there’s a path of death and destruction in Jane’s wake that can only be described as operatic.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is no sunny walk in the park. Clocking in at 133 minutes, it’s a lengthy and relentlessly downbeat exercise in familial terror. While that combo platter might turn off some viewers, fans of macabre magnificence will have plenty of tasty tidbits to chew on. Both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis throw themselves into their respective roles, with the latter simultaneously channeling the esprit de corps of at least a dozen different nightmare drag queens. Her “last dance” on the shores of Malibu is a sight to behold.
CLICK HERE to buy WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? on Blu-ray.
DIRECTED BY: Alfred Hitchcock SCREENPLAY BY: Joseph Stefano (based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch) STARRING: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Martin Balsam ORIGINAL US RELEASE: September 8, 1960 by Paramount Pictures.
Even if you’re among the holdouts who haven’t seen PSYCHO, you probably know the basic plot of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece. In a moment of moral turpitude, Marion Crane (Leigh) steals a wad of cash from her employer and flees town. While driving on a stretch of lonely highway, a sudden downpour sends her off the wrong exit. She ends up at the Bates Motel where there are plenty of vacancies. In fact, she’s the only guest. Her host, young Norman Bates (Perkins), chats her up before Crane decides to call it a night and take what will become the single most famous shower in movie history.
PSYCHO is the rare cinematic icon that has stood the test of time while also living up to every bit of the praise heaped upon it by fans and critics alike. It’s a towering achievement made all the more impressive because, from a production standpoint at least, it’s a relatively bare bones affair. What makes the film work so well is an almost perfect storm of casting, writing and direction. Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins are at the top of their respective games here, aided in no small part by Joseph Stefano’s top-notch screenplay. Hitchcock turns the limits of a small budget and tight production schedule into a symphony of brilliant camera angles and masterful shot sequences. The shower scene might get all the buzz, but it’s surrounded by celluloid of equally masterful design.
CLICK HERE to buy PSYCHO on Blu-ray.
CLICK HERE for “Monsters! Terror In Black and White (Part One)”