Whats the Matter with Helen 1971 (1971) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: Two middle-aged women move to Hollywood, California after their sons are convicted of a notorious murder and open a dance school for children eager to tap their way to stardom. Runtime: 101 mins Release Date: 30 Jun 1971
Fine, eerie black comedy with a superb Reynolds turn. (by tonybolger)
A vastly underrated black comedy, the finest in a series of grand guignol movies to follow 'Baby Jane'. Reynolds and Winters are mothers of young convicted murderers a nod to 'Compulsion' who run away to hide in Hollywood. They run a school for would-be movie tots, a bunch of hilariously untalented kids attended by awful stage moms. Debbie, in her blonde wig 'I'm a Harlow, you're more a Marion Davies' she tells Winters leads the tots at their concert and wins a rich dad, Weaver. She also does a deliciously funny tango and, over all, gives an outstanding <more>
performance, unlike anything she'd done before. The atmosphere is a fine mix of comic and eerie. It looks wonderful with great period detail 30's . Lots of lovely swipes at Hollywood and the terrifying movie tot. Micheal MacLiammoir has a ball as the drama coach: 'Hamilton Starr', he purrs, 'two r's but prophetic nonetheless'. See it and love it.
Love this movie. Debbie is gorgeous & her dancing is superb. Dennis Weaver is a suave & debonair as her boyfriend. Shelley Winters is perfect as the unstable Helen with her peculiarities. It moves along fast with some nice spooky scenes & moody characters. Great locations & atmosphere. Wonderful story & actors. I saw it on TCM & taped it so I can watch it again.
One of Curtis Harrington's best horror films (by Woodyanders)
The 1930s. Classy, elegant Adele marvelously played with dignified resolve by Debbie Reynolds and batty, frumpy Helen the magnificent Shelley Winters going full-tilt wacko with her customary histrionic panache are the mothers of two killers. They leave their seamy pasts in the Midwest behind and move to Hollywood to start their own dance school for aspiring kid starlets. Adele begins dating dashing millionaire Lincoln Palmer the always fine Dennis Weaver . On the other hand, religious fanatic Helen soon sinks into despair and madness.Director Curtis "Night Tide," <more>
"Ruby" Harrington, working from a crafty script by Henry Farrell who wrote the book "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" was based on and co-wrote the screenplay for "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" , adeptly concocts a complex and compelling psychological horror thriller about guilt, fear, repression and religious fervor running dangerously amok. The super cast have a ball with their colorful roles: Michael MacLiammoir as a pompous elocution teacher, Agnes Moorehead as a stern fire-and-brimstone radio evangelist, Yvette Vickers as a snippy, overbearing mother of a bratty wannabe child star, Logan Ramsey as a snoopy detective, and Timothy Carey as a creepy bum. An elaborate talent recital set piece with Pamelyn Ferdin the voice of Lucy in the "Peanuts" TV cartoon specials serving as emcee and original "Friday the 13th" victim Robbi Morgan doing a wickedly bawdy dead-on Mae West impression qualifies as a definite highlight. David Raskin's spooky score, a fantastic scene with Reynolds performing an incredible tango at a posh restaurant, the flavorsome Depression-era period atmosphere, Lucien Ballard's handsome cinematography, and especially the startling macabre ending are all likewise on the money excellent and effective. MGM presents this terrific gem on a nifty DVD doublebill with "Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?;" both pictures are presented in crisp widescreen transfers along with their theatrical trailers.
The most bizarre of the cinematic sub-genres is the so called "The Great Ladies of the Grand Guignol": camp horror films which combined over-the-top melodrama with gothic thrills and always starred by seasoned and almost forgotten actress from hollywood golden age in unflattering roles of either long suffering victims or screeching evil harpies. This genre provided them with an unusual acting showcase that allowed strut their stuff on the screen once again and win new generations of fans at expense of their glamorous images from yesterday."What's the matter with Helen" <more>
is the last drop of this sub-genre with stunning performances of both Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters as the troubled mothers of two convicted criminals who run away from their past to the sunny California in the 1930s to open a talent school to milk out the eagerly mothers who want their daughters to be the next Shirley Temple. In California, Debbie gets happiness, clients, tango, tap dancing and a new love interest Dennis Weaver meanwhile Shelley gets wacko with horrible flashbacks, menacing anonymous calls, menacing strangers, menacing Agnes Moorehead as a radio evangelist, cute little rabbits ! and an unfortunate encounter with an electric fan ouch! .The sloppy script penned by Henry Farrell, the man who started all this genre with "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" along with master director Robert Aldrich, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis is full of plot holes, red herrings and wasted opportunities that could had made this movie great: the underlying themes of twisted motherhood with Debbie and Shelley's characters as "failed mothers" and the overbearing mommies of the child stars and obsessive female bonding Debbie and Shelley relationship and the fact that the few male characters of this movie are either sinister or sleazy even Dennis Weaver dream boat Texan are wasted. Instead we get Debbie Reynolds musicals interludes and dancing tots, although fun to watch take too much screen time of what is supposedly to be a psychological chiller. But still this movie is highly entertaining. The two stars and Curtis Harrington stylish direction easily overcomes its flaws. The movie recreation of the 1930's is colorful and elegant look at Debbie's clothes! made with a very tight budget. The increasing atmosphere of madness and hysteria is genuinely creepy with a shocking finale that will haunt you for days. And you wouldn't easily forget that silly "Goody, goody" song that runs through the movie either. And seeing an increasingly mad Shelley Winters screw every one of Debbie Reynolds' chances at happiness is a hoot to watch!8 out of 10.
While this is not the most intellectual film, it certainly is quite entertaining. (by MartinHafer)
Some of the background details of this story are based, very, very loosely, on real events of the era in which this was placed. The story combines some of the details of the famous Leopold and Loeb case along with a bit of Aimee Semple McPherson.The story begins with two mothers Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds being hounded as they leave a courtroom. The crowd seems most intent on doing them bodily harm as their sons were just convicted of a heinous thrill crime. One person in the crowd apparently slashes Winters' hand as they make their way to a waiting car.Soon after they arrive <more>
home, they begin getting threatening phone calls, so Reynolds suggests they both move to the West Coast together and open a dance school. The dance school is s success and they cater to incredibly obnoxious parents who think their child is the next Shirley Temple. One of the parents of these spoiled kids is a multimillionaire who is quite smitten with Reynolds and they begin dating. Life appears very good. But, when the threatening phone calls begin again, Winters responds by flipping out--behaving like she's nearing a psychotic break and she retreats further and further into religion--listening on the radio to 'Sister Alma' almost constantly. Again and again, you see Winters on edge and it ultimately culminates in very bad things!! I won't say more, as it might spoil this suspenseful and interesting film.In many ways, this film is a lot like the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford horror films of the 1960s like "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", "Straight-Jacket" and "The Nanny". While none of these are exactly intellectual fare, on a kitsch level they are immensely entertaining and fun. The writing is very good and there are some nice twists near the end that make it all very exciting. Winters is great as a fragile and demented lady and Reynolds plays one of the sexiest 39 year-olds I've ever seen--plus she can really, really dance.My only concern about all this is that some might find Winters' hyper-religiosity in the film a bit tacky--like a cheap attack on Christianity. At first I felt that way, but when you meet Sister Alma, she seems sincere and is not mocked, so I took Winters' religious zeal as just a sign of craziness--which, I assume, is all that was intended.By the way, this film is packaged along with "Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?"--another Shelley Winters horror film from 1971. Both are great fun...and quite over-the-top!
Scary, Believable And Real, Psychological Creeper (by johnstonjames)
Curtis Harrington is the most. i'd say to die for but that would be a pun that waxes ironic. but Harrington makes creepy psychological horror that is hard to resist not only because of the morbidity of their fascination but because they are so elegant, refined and obviously tailored to be so entertaining and fun.'What's The Matter With Helen' is a lot of creepy fun but it is also very stylish and extremely well crafted stuff. not only are Reynolds and Winters outstanding and memorable, but the production design and screenplay are above par. not to mention one of the wickedest <more>
and slyest sense of humour in dark comedy. the humour is so sly and subtle that it never relies on obvious or out and out gags. most people would hardly even realize there is even humour at play here.there have been complaints about there being too many plot holes within the story here. i disagree. you just have to pay more attention to the situation. if there is any fault here with the story is that there is possibly too much happening for the viewer to comprehend easily on one viewing. but the plot is coherent and tied together correctly, it just gets a little hard to follow with all the events that transpire. but in the long, it all makes perfect sense. there is also a real sense of believable timing here like in the suddenness of Helen's homicidal rage.as with Harrington's 'Auntie Roo', i feel like i'm giving short change by only rating this with eight stars. his film's have so much quality you feel they warrant more consideration. possibly so. maybe time will tell. where i'm concerned, Harrington's film's feel too entertaining and are too much fun, and that seems to be the ultimate point to them, which makes their contributions seem somewhat light and superficial. as far as entertaining fun goes, they are cinema classics.at any rate i think this film is a real hoot and holler. there may be better horror films and thrillers than this, but few as perfectly done and few are as fun as this.