Bette Davis gives a great performance, sometimes chewing the scenery, sometimes understated, as a Southern recluse, slowly going mad, or is she?
She is the victim, rather than the tormentor, the role she played in '... Baby Jane. Olivia De Haviland stepped in to play her mysterious 'Yankee' cousin from New York. She too gives a top performance, chillingly dark, seething with a repressed jealousy and hatred. Joan Crawford was to take that role, but she gave up part way through the production, claiming that Bette Davis had turned the rest of the cast and the crew against her.
In fact the fim is packed with great performances. It is as though these great stars from a generation earlier siezed the chance to be in a major film again, and put everything into their acting. Mary Astor is superb, and Agnes Moorhead (best known for playing 'Endora' is 60s T.V. 'Bewitched'), picked up a supporting role Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Velma Cruthers, the scary, but ultimately very loyal servant. Joseph Cotton and Cecil Kellaway are fine too, but this is really a film for its female stars.
Back in 1964, this was considered a horror film. By today's standards, the horror is mild and laughable, but it still works, in my opinion, as a great suspense thriller. Some might consider it a high camp classic.