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"Claire Marrable, a destitute widow, finds a way to keep herself living the good life by hiring a series of housekeepers whom she eventually murders, steals their life savings and buries them in her desert pine tree garden. An incredibly fun movie which derives pleasure from the lead actors. Geraldine Page (as Mrs. Marrable) and Ruth Gordon (as Alice Dimmock, the latest housekeeper who is actually trying to find out what happened to her friend who mysteriously vanished while working for Marrable) chew the scenery to the hilt and it is so much fun watching the interactions between the two. Watch Page's reaction when Gordon tells her the amount in her savings account - priceless! The film as a whole suffers somewhat from some dull supporting characters and a dreary romantic sub-plot involving Gordon's nephew and Page's neighbor. Still worth it for the acting dynamo of Page and Gordon and even Mildred Dunnock manages some nice moments in her few scenes. And you'll never forget the frenetic zither music score!The quality of the dvd is very good. The picture is sharp and the colors are strong. The only extra feature is a trailer for the film which delivers the memorable tag-line - "Whatever happened to Aunt Alice is more terrifying than what happened to Baby Jane"!"
Page and Gordon sparkle in witty, melodramatic thriller
Matthew Horner | USA | 06/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the early 1960s director Robert Aldrich teamed aging stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a suspense thriller called "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" The movie was a smash hit. Two or three years later he brought the two actresses back for "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte". Crawford dropped out and was replaced by Olivia De Havilland. Again, Aldrich struck pay dirt. In 1969 his production company made yet another such movie, "Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?", starring Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon. This was directed by Lee H. Katzin. I don't think it was as successful at the boxoffice, but the important thing is that Alice is almost as much fun as Jane and Charlotte.Page plays Claire, a woman of sixty or so. In the opening scenes she finds out that her recently deceased husband left her with virtually nothing. Furious because her grand lifestyle has ended, Claire moves to the American Southwest, where she cooks up a scheme. She hires timid little old lady housekeepers and, over time, convinces them that she can make them a lot of money in the stock market. Once an unsuspecting employee turns over her life savings, Claire kills her and buries her in her garden, marking each grave with a new pine tree. Soon the yard is filled with trees. One day a new housekeeper named Alice [Ruth Gordon] shows up. Alice, however, has an ulterior motive. One of the women was her friend, and Alice suspects that Claire is responsible for her disappearance. Thus begins a grand game of cat and mouse. Unlike Davis and Crawford, Page and Gordon were not movie stars fallen on hard times. They were great character actresses with extensive stage experience. Both had had an occasional starring role in films but had played mostly supporting roles over the years. They were older but hardly faded. If anything, they were at the height of their popularity when they made "Alice". They are the reason the movie, otherwise an outlandish melodrama, is still worth seeing. Gordon is outrageous fun as Alice, playing the part with true professionalism, yet barely able to conceal her glee and amusement at being in such a movie. But it is Page who dominates throughout. Her Claire is both hilarious and sad. Sometimes she stalks, sometimes she slithers through the movie, reminding one of a cross between a leopard and a cobra. She's obviously having a grand time. Other Geraldine Page movies I particularly like are "Summer and Smoke", "The Trip to Bountiful" and "Sweet Bird of Youth". Great Ruth Gordon movies include "Harold and Maude", "Where's Poppa?" and, of course, "Rosemary's Baby"."
Fun and intrigue
A. Griffiths | London | 09/06/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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. "
Surprising, compelling, funny and masterful - Contains Spoil
Review Lover | At a place... | 06/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""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.
DonMac | Lynn, MA United States | 08/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Aunt Alice is really an oddity in some ways. Baby Jane and Charlotte were first of course and both had their moments, but the camp scale is upped a bit here due to the way the mod, ultra-cool early 70's sets and clothing look to the viewer today. Page is wild here: creepy and scary at one moment and then hillariously funny the next. Gordon is all plucky determination as she investiagtes the mystery of Page's character. Together, they are a delight to watch as they spa and smack each other with equal glee. Great fun."