An aging, reclusive Southern belle plagued by a horrifying family secret descends into madness after the arrival of a lost relative.An aging, reclusive Southern belle plagued by a horrifying family secret descends into madness after the arrival of a lost relative.An aging, reclusive Southern belle plagued by a horrifying family secret descends into madness after the arrival of a lost relative.
It's 1927, the Louisiana plantation home of Sam Hollis (Victor Buono), and Charlotte Hollis (Davis) is having an affair with a married man, John Mayhew (Bruce Dern). After a heated argument between Sam and John, John is brutally slain by an unseen assailant, only Charlotte appears on the scene covered in blood. Then it's the present day and just Charlotte and her house keeper, Velma (Moorehead), live at the Hollis mansion, Sam having passed away many years ago. Charlotte is mentally scarred from the echoes of the past, she's a recluse and seen by the townsfolk as the local mental case. As developers try to plough a road through the Hollis home, Charlotte sends for her cousin Miriam (Havilland), but then strange things start happening and Charlotte might once and for all tip over the edge.
A bit long at 2 hours 13 minutes and a bit too bonkers at times, Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte still comes out as glorious Guignol entertainment. The setting is perfect, a Baton Rouge locale of whispering trees and ominous foliage, the Hollis mansion a place of dark secrets, shadowy halls and mental disintegration. Biroc's black and white photography seems to revel in the misery and emotional turmoil that blows about the place, and the brilliant Aldrich unleashes delirious turns from Davis and Moorehead as the others play perfectly restrained foil. There's a strong mystery element driving the plot forward, because what we think is true may not actually be the case? The narrative deftly reveals back stories as film progresses, hints at means and motives dangle tantalisingly in the Gothic tinged air, and then the finale doesn't disappoint, it has some surprises in store and closes the picture down handsomely.
Best served with a good helping of Sour Mash, Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte is Southern Gothicana with bells on. Or should that be Belles? 8/10
- Jan 16, 2014