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Monday, July 3, 2017

What's The Matter With Helen? (1971)

In the 1930s, two women (Debbie Reynolds, Shelley Winters) head for California and change their names to start a new life after their sons are sentenced to life imprisonment for a brutal mutilation murder. But it seems they have been followed by someone bent on revenge for the murder their sons committed. Based on an unpublished short story THE BOX STEP by Henry Farrell (WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?) and directed by Curtis Harrington (NIGHT TIDE). There were cuts of a lesbian kiss by Winters to Reynolds and the final murder was severely toned down at the studio's insistence in order to avoid an R rating. What remains is still an effective entry in the "mature" actress horror cycle (think BABY JANE, HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE, STRAIT JACKET etc.). Not surprisingly, Winters is very effective as a whack job but Reynolds is surprisingly good in a dramatic role that suggests MGM might have been wasting her in musical comedy. The art direction by Eugene Lourie (LIMELIGHT) is excellent and Morton Haack's costume design received an Oscar nomination. There's a topnotch score by David Raksin (LAURA). With Dennis Weaver, Agnes Moorehead, Michael MacLiammoir, Timothy Carey, Yvette Vickers and Pamelyn Ferdin.   

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