There’s no denying the power in the performances of both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis as they spar off each other throughout this brilliant thriller. My only complaint is that the 133-minute running time could have been cut down by trimming some of the fat off the edges.
Two sisters live together in a large house in the heart of Hollywood. Ex-child star “Baby” Jane Hudson is forced by circumstance and guilt to take care of her crippled ex-movie star sister, Blanche. “Baby” Jane begins to descend into madness as she reflects on her loss of celebrity. She takes her frustrations out on Blanche in many maniacal and cruel ways. The handicapped sibling must find a way to escape the clutches of “Baby” Jane before it’s too late.
Warner Bros. did a superb job at restoring this beloved film. The black and white picture gives it a moody atmosphere it wouldn’t have achieved in color. The shadows and camera angles are key to the tone each particular scene is trying to evoke. The high-definition transfer enhances the viewing experience. It’s never looked so clean and vibrant.
Consumers will no doubt be disappointed in the movie’s 1.0 Dolby Digital sound. Why Warner Bros. wouldn’t give this movie some sort of stereo upgrade is beyond me. It’s certainly one of those iconic pieces of Hollywood gold that deserves it. That being said, it does sound as good as it ever has in the past. Viewers will be distraught If they’re expecting an immersive experience in which you feel surrounded in auditory bliss.
This anniversary edition contains some wonderful special features. It includes a 40-page booklet filled with cast and crew biographies, “Making of” stories, trivia, publicity posters and stills, and pictures from the film. There’s commentary by Charles Busch and John Epperson, three documentary profiles entitled “Bette and Joan: Blind Ambition,” All About Bette” (hosted by Jodie Foster), and “Film Profile: Joan Crawford.” A behind-the-scenes documentary and an excerpt from the 1962 “Andy Williams Show” show featuring Bette Davis are found. The “Dan-O-Rama Movie Mix” and a theatrical trailer round out the bonus material.
The What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Anniversary Edition Blu-ray treats this cherished treasure with the respect it’s due when it comes to a visual restoration and interesting extra features. The lack of any sort of sound upgrade is disappointing but this edition still delivers in all other avenues. The movie stretches itself a little thin at times and could have been a bit shorter. A great ending, elegant cinematography and disturbing performances by the lead actors more than make up for that shortcoming.