18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
An elderly widow finds herself left nothing in her husband's will, so she takes to employing housekeepers and murdering them for their life savings. She meets her match when one comes along who is not as meek as she looks, but is actually investigating the disappearance of the last housekeeper, who was her friend. The scene is set for a little old lady showdown!
I agree with most other reviewers in that "Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice" is a black comedy rather than a thriller, and it succeeds thanks to the bravura performances of Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon, particularly Page as the villain Claire Marrabel, who really carries the whole film. Her very first scene shows us just the sort of woman she is, when her barely concealed excitement at the reading of her late husband's will turns to rage and bitterness when it turns out he had sunk all their assets into huge debts without ever telling her. Page plays the role magnificently, really throwing herself into the part, and continues in a vein of scarcely controlled wildness throughout the rest of the film. Two scenes stood out for me; firstly when she commits her very first murder, she is required to bury the body in a hole and plant a sapling pine tree over the top of this (this ever growing row of new trees becomes a visual gag for the rest of the movie). Page launches herself into the task with vigour, seemingly doing the full job while the camera and credits roll over the top of the scene. The second great moment is much later on in the movie when Claire has drugged two potential victims and tries to set their house on fire. It is Page we see (not a stand-in) crazily flinging a lighted cushion around the house trying to get the rest of the furniture to catch on fire. It looks quite dangerous, and my admiration went out to the actress for doing this scene herself. But even in the more sedate scenes, Page fills the character of Claire Marrabel with seething greed and madness, and she's always a joy to watch.
In contrast to this, Ruth Gordon takes on a far more subtle turn as Alice Dimmock, the housekeeper that fights back. Playing much of the film as a meek doormat to her employer, she really shines in scenes when she confers with an accomplice she has helping her on the outside, and the spunky character of Miss Dimmock finally comes out, and her feisty words made me feel that here was a worthy opponent for the evil Mrs Marrabel. And it's here that the meat of the film lies. Gradually, both women start to snoop into each others business and, entertainingly, both become suspicious of the other at about the same time. This leads to the best section of the movie: when both women are just starting to square up to each other over their suspicions, and every kline of dialogue contains a barbed hint or a subtle accusation. Sadly this tension cannot last, as all too soon the gloves come off and it becomes a battle for survival. After a great chase and even a physical battle inside Marrabel's house has ensued, the audience is totally rooting for poor Alice to make her getaway and expose the true murderous nature of her employer.
I won't reveal what happens, but I did find the final climax of the film slightly disappointing, so see what you think. But the film does work, despite very unnecessary support and subplots involving all manner of forgettable side characters. Not one of the rest of the cast comes close to holding your attention in the way that Page and Gordon can, in fact the film could easily have been made as a two-hander, although I suppose this would have made it less marketable. Mind you the terrible publicity images on the DVD releases don't do a very good job either - there are no visible dead bodies in the film - why can't the sleeve designers repect the fans and package the film with it's stars on the front? Just because they are too far over 25 years of age, I suppose.All in all, great fun, thanks to the efforts of it's two stars.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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"Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?" is, I believe, often overlooked for flashier, more renowned entries in the same vein of Grand Guignol - movies like "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?", "Lady In A Cage", "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte", and so forth.
But in "Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?" we have something that none of those other movies had: a lack of Legend and a sense of Cult Following, and next-to-no expectations when viewing the movie for the first time. And so what we see when we sit down to watch it is something fresh, exciting and very, very good indeed.
"Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?" stars the very wonderful Geraldine Page as the recently widowed Claire Marrable, who, in the wake of being left destitute by the financial wasteland that is her late husband's estate, moves to an isolated part of rural Arizona, and takes on a succession of tight-lipped, downtrodden housekeepers. The reason for the succession soon becomes apparent: Mrs. Marrable is murdering these women in short order, after they've signed their life savings over to her, and using them as fertiliser for what must be said is a remarkably verdant desert garden.
Enter the seemingly innocuous Alice Dimmock (the equally wonderful Ruth Gordon), who, after the briefest of introductory periods, sets about working to her own agenda: discovering the whereabouts of Mrs. Marrable's last housekeeper.
Performances are incredibly, incredibly good: Geraldine Page is a delight to watch in almost all of her movie roles, and this proves no different: she's a magnetic, charismatic powerhouse who breathes a pathos and a kind of twisted empathy into the murderous role of Mrs. Marrable. Ruth Gordon, riding on a high from her 1968 Academy Award for the role of Minne Castavet in "Rosemary's Baby", gives a similarly inspired performance as the titular Alice: this could have easily been a one-dimensional reading of the character, but Gordon's low-key, understated screen presence and hugely entertaining mannerisms propel the character of Alice Dimmock right off the screen and into our minds: she's real, and Gordon is excellent.
The supporting cast is of a very high standard, too: Rosemary Forsyth is believable in her very small supporting role as Mrs. Marrable's young neighbour Harriet Vaughn, and Robert Fuller gives a good turn in his supporting role as Alice's nephew Mike Darragh. But this show belongs lock, stock and barrel to Gordon and Page: the supporting cast simply provides a solid backdrop to their excellent performances.
Direction is great - the late swingin' sixties colour clashes of the fabrics and furnishings make the interior scenes a beautiful contrast to the exterior sparseness of the Arizona landscape. Lighting, too, is used to great effect: rather than feel hopelessly dated, as many of the early seventies thrillers do now, the well-lit, almost soap-operaish quality of the photography actually serves to compliment the unstructured, loose flow of director Lee H. Katzin's confident, narrative camerawork. I can't name many other movies of this period that work visually as well as "Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?", and that's high praise, indeed.
All in all, "Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?" has certainly stood the test of time as a record of the talents of Page and Gordon - but more importantly, remains as relevant and enjoyable today, and on the same levels, as it did on its initial release. This isn't a movie you love for the camp value, because there's not many camp laughs to be had - it's simply an excellent film, and one well-worth owning.
DVD-wise the print is excellent, and while the sound sadly is mono, it's not that big of a deal with some decent television speakers.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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I vividly remember seeing this little flick back in 1969 when it was originally released theatrically and I found it much more enjoyable than the supposedly "bigger" movie of the double feature. The acting of Gordon (she's not especially eccentric in this) and Dunnock is first-rate as usual yet it's Page who has a field day in her incredible tour de force interpretation of the murderous middle-aged Mrs. Marrable. Scenes which linger in the memory are many: when Page catches Gordon combing out her wig collection, Marrable winning a contest (she discovers this one evening while tipsy & opening her mail), a scene has Page tear into Gordon "Did I say you could help yourself? " after Ruthie's poured herself a brandy; there's the "Gordon dumping scene" and the ironic ending which concerns postage stamps. I'm so glad this little gem has found it's way to video; Geraldine Page was surely one of the finest actresses to grace the stage and screen; her acting is a fascinating joy to behold!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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This is a fun little black comedy from television director Lee Katzin. Playing off the title of "Whatver Happened to Baby Jane", it is not ruined by its television look and feel because of a particularly memorable performance by Geraldine Page.
Page plays an older women who has essentially been driven mad with rage after her husband dies and leaves her only his debts and .the contents of his briefcase. She moves to the desert and lives very comfortably by dispatching a series of live-in housekeepers who have turned over their life savings to her. Katzin tells the story mostly from the POV of Page's character so that after a while the audience is actually identifying with her.
Ruth Gordon is essentially wasted in a very straight role. Rosemary Forsyth and Robert Fuller make an appealing couple but are very minor to story.
Page is absolutely brilliant and plays the ironic twist at the end of the film beautifully. At the same time that she is found out, she finds out that her husband actually made a provision for her to live comfortably after his death. She plays this final scene in such a way that we understand that discovering he actually loved her is far more important to her than getting away with murder.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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"Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?" was made in the same vein as "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?" and "Hush, Hush...Sweet Charlotte". It is considered the third installment in the "Baby Jane" franchise by most ardent fans of the original. First released in 1969, "Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?" was produced by "Baby Jane" director Robert Aldrich. While watching the film you get an eery sense of "Baby Jane" in the feel of the script and the production. "...Aunt Alice?" deals with a woman named Mrs. Marrable, played with canny villany, by stage actress Gearldine Page, who discovers her husband has left her flat broke leaving his widow with only his stamp collection. To stay financially afloat this woman hires maids, whom she steals money from and eventually kills. Like "Baby Jane" and "Hush, Hush" this film deals with women, in desperate situations, killing for cash. Extremely well done, "Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?" has some of the best acting in a film. Page tears up the screen as the woman who is desperate. Her facial expressions, that wig she wears, and her campy performance, will satisfy the most faithful "Baby Jane" fan. Ruth Gordon has a role in the film playing another servant of Marrable's called Alice. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Marrable Alice is trying to find out what she is up to. '70's hunk Robert Fuller from TV's "Emergency" and former soap actress Rosemary Forsythe have supporting roles. If your a fan of the "hag films" made popular by Joan Crawford and Bette Davis you will love "Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?". The movie comes in beautiful widescreen format, but unfortunately does not include the theatrical trailer.