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Coming off the success of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, director Robert Aldrich designed HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE ($15) as a follow-up film for his aging leading ladies, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. However, the actresses reputed dislike for one another allegedly lead to Crawford feigning illness to get out working with Davis again. With Crawford out of the production, Aldrich brought in Olivia de Havilland (another past her prime actress) to star opposite Davis in this wonderful Grand Guignol gothic thriller.

HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE opens with an extended prologue that depicts the grizzly axe murder of John Mayhew, the married lover of young Charlotte Hollis. HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE then leaps forward forty years, where we discover a slightly off balance Charlotte (Bette Davis) still mourning her lost love and living with the stigma of people believing her an axe murderess, who was only saved from prosecution by her rich father, Big Sam Hollis (Victor Buono). In all that time, things have changed greatly in the little Louisiana community that bares Charlotte’s family name, with the family home about to be leveled to make way for a new highway. An urgent cry for help brings Charlotte’s cousin Miriam Deering (Olivia de Havilland) to her side. However, as the destruction of Charlotte’s home looms ever-closer memories of the past are dredged up, forcing Charlotte’s fragile mind closer to the precipice. The first rate cast of HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE also features Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead (an Oscar nominated performance), Cecil Kellaway, Mary Astor, Wesley Addy, William Campbell, Frank Ferguson and George Kennedy.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE available on DVD in a 1.66:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE has been given a wonderful black and white transfer from well-preserved film elements. The image always appears rather crisp and nicely defined. Blacks are deep and ink, while the whites are clean and stable. Both contrast and grayscale are excellent. Again, I want to note that the film elements look great, display few blemishes or signs of age. There is a mild film grain that creeps up here and there, but it is never bothersome. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack is rather nice sounding, offering better than expected fidelity, which highlights Frank De Vol’s fine musical score. The sound isn’t particularly directional, but the stereo mix gives it more presence and helps it to seem more atmospheric. Dialogue is always crisply rendered and easy to understand. An English monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. DVD Savant Glenn Erickson provides an entertaining and information packed audio commentary that looks at HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, its cast and its crew in great detail. A theatrical teaser, theatrical trailer and three TV spots close out the extras.

HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE remains a marvelous Grand Guignol gothic thriller thanks to the assured direction of Robert Aldrich and its cast of Hollywood legends. Fox’s DVD looks absolutely terrific and the audio commentary is a must listen. If you are a fan of Bette Davis or Olivia de Havilland, or just a movie buff in general, then HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE is a DVD that deserves a place in your personal film library. Highly recommended.



Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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