Friday, October 16, 2015
Video Beaverhausen: What's the Matter with Helen?
1971's What's the Matter with Helen? was written by Henry Farrell, who previously scripted What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.
Again, Mr Farrell created a star vehicle for aging stars. Debbie Reynolds looked glamorous and could still tap dance with the best of them. Call this "Screaming in the Rain" if you'd like.
The story is about the mothers of two convicted killers who bond during that horrible ordeal and decide to move to L.A. The film is set in the 1930s. In Hollywood, the odd couple set up a tap dance studio together for aspiring Shirley Temple types. Debbie teaches, Shelley accompanies on piano.
It is rumored Debbie, a co-producer of this film, thought Shelley was unpleasant to work with and overly competitive. Shelley said, of Debbie, "Thank God they didn't give me a real knife!" This only added to the tension between them on-screen.
When Shelley does crazy, she goes full throttle and over-the-top, as you all know. What's the Matter with Helen? is a camp, Grand Guignol, hagtastic classic, and the friction between the two leads only adds to the tension in the film.
Dennis Weaver is Debbie's boyfriend and Agnes Moorehead gives a wonderfully unforgettable co-starring performance. Handsomely filmed in Technicolor, nicely edited, sturdy direction by Curtis Harrington. Highly recommended.