Review Date: August 31, 2002
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: July 11, 2000
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Claire Marrable (Geraldine Page
), a newly-widowed socialite, has just gotten the shock of her life - she has nothing! After sitting down with her husband's lawyer to go over his will, which lists her as the sole beneficiary, she is stunned to learn that her husband was practically bankrupt. His investments were worthless, his business opportunities had bottomed out, his savings were depleted, their house was mortgaged, and he had actually had to resort to borrowing money to pay his medical bills. All she's been left with are his personal possessions and a number of debts to pay off. Claire realizes that the luxurious lifestyle she's experienced for so many years is about to come to an end.
She is forced to pack up and move to Arizona, where she is watched over by her nephew George (Peter Brandon
), who thinks that his uncle still had money when he died and gave it all to her. Claire buys a small house in the middle of the desert, and, already a bit loony to begin with, she begins to slip off the edge and resort to desperate measures to solve her money problems. She manages to convince her housekeepers to put their life savings in the stock market, and when their investment begins to pay off, she steals the cash, kills them and buries their bodies under trees in her garden. Claire's most recent victim is Edna Tinsley (Mildred Dunnock
), an elderly woman whom she brutally bludgeons to death with a shovel.
Not long after she kills Edna, Claire hires Alice Dimmock (Ruth Gordon
), a former nurse who applies for the job of her new housekeeper. After working just a few days, Alice discovers Claire to be a psychotic, demanding and cruel woman, but she stays on the job nonetheless. Meanwhile, Claire gets a new neighbor, a young woman named Harriet Vaughn (Rosemary Forsyth
) who is taking care of her asthmatic nephew, who moves into the only residence near Claire, a formerly abandoned cottage within sight of her house. Harriet meets Mike Darrah (Robert Fuller
), a handsome mechanic whom she becomes romantically involved with, although Mike also seems to know Alice from somewhere. As it turns out, Alice is looking for Edna Tinsley. Edna was her housekeeper and companion for many years, but Alice's fiery temper drove her away. Edna had been planning on leaving Claire's employment when she suddenly disappeared, and now Alice and Mike, who is her nephew, are trying to find out what happened to her. But will they be able to bring Claire to justice before she catches on to them and adds Alice to her garden as well?
What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?
is a simple but very enjoyable little thriller that still holds up well today, even though it's over thirty years old. There's some genuine suspense, and the unusual setting (the desert) allows director Lee H. Katzin to add visual interest where normally there would be none. Like many other movies in the 'crazy old ladies' genre (i.e., Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Hush...Hush...Sweet Charlotte
), the older stars dominate the film. Both Ruth Gordon and Geraldine Page are very fun to watch in their parts. Page is completely over-the-top and hammy as Claire; it's not an especially realistic performance, but once you get into the movie you'll have no trouble accepting her in the role. Ruth Gordon's Alice is a strong-willed character whose confrontations with Claire are a treat to watch. There isn't as much chemistry between the two as there could have been, but the duo are still enjoyable to watch.
Unfortunately, Rosemary Forsythe and Robert Fuller, playing the film's love interests, don't fare quite as well. Neither one of them is a bad actor, but their characters aren't very interesting and the script spends more time than it should developing the romance between them. The romantic sub-plot doesn't serve much purpose, and it simply drags the plot down. It seems to have been added almost on the philosophy that all movies must have romance in some form or another. That's one of my few real complaints with What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?
. It's a good movie that was worth my time, despite a few flaws.
What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?
is presented widescreen at 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. For a movie of this vintage, it looks great. The image is very sharp and detailed, allowing me to clearly see every sag and wrinkle in Ruth Gordon's puckered-up old face. Colors are vibrant and nicely rendered, without any major oversaturation or bleed. There is only limited speckling and print damage, and grain is not very noticeable at all. Night scenes looked just a little bit too dark, and some shots had a soft, somewhat hazy look to them, but they did not detract from the overall quality of the presentation.
The soundtrack is in Dolby 2.0 Mono, and it sounds fine for an older movie. I heard a little hiss and pop here and there, but dialogue was clear and the track was of acceptable range. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are provided on this release.
Just a theatrical trailer.
An enjoyable movie that took me by surprise, and another impressive release from the folks at Anchor Bay, despite the lack of supplemental materials. It's definitely worth checking out.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - C
- Running Time - 1 hour 41 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- 18 Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono