HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Unseen, The
Tonight She Comes
Chasing the Dragon
Into the Forest
Limehouse Golem, The
Frankenstein '80
Good Time
Bucket of Blood, A
Detroit
Hide and Seek
What Happened to Monday
River Wild, The
Veteran
Slumber Party '57
Juliette, or Key of Dreams
Summertime Killer
Sweet Virginia
Ben & Arthur
Your Name
Red Hot Shot, The
New World
Trick Baby
Weapons of Death
Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World, The
Kills on Wheels
Strait-Jacket
This Man is Dangerous
Burning Paradise
Away
Mistress of the Apes
   
 
Newest Articles
Apocalypse 80s UK: Threads and When the Wind Blows
Movie Flop to Triumphant TV Revival: Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen
Driving Force: The Golden Age of American Car Chases
Madness in his Method: Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman
Music, Love and Flowers: Monterey Pop on Blu-ray
The Melville Mood: His Final Two Films on The Melville Collection Blu-ray
Always Agnès: 3 from The Varda Collection Blu-ray
Re: Possession of Vehicles - Killer Cars, Trucks and a Vampire Motorcycle
The Whicker Kicker: Whicker's World Vols 5&6 on DVD
The Empress, the Mermaid and the Princess Bride: Three 80s Fantasy Movies
   
 
  What's the Matter with Helen? Face The Music And DanceBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Curtis Harrington
Stars: Debbie Reynolds, Shelley Winters, Dennis Weaver, Micheál MacLiammóir, Agnes Moorehead, Samee Lee Jones, Helene Winston, Yvette Vickers, Timothy Carey, Robbi Morgan
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the 1930s a sensational murder case results in two young men being put behind bars for life, but their mothers, Adelle (Debbie Reynolds) and Helen (Shelley Winters) become the victims of the public's anger and decide to move to California to open a talent school for little girls. All goes well until Helen believes that the threatening phonecalls they experienced back in their home town are starting again - could someone be out for revenge, or is the pressure getting to Helen?

This melodramatic Hollywood shocker was written by Henry Farrell, the author of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and like that film features two ageing stars in a psychological horror plot. While it doesn't reach the heights of Baby Jane, lacking the resonance and leaning too heavily on its murder-flavoured storyline, it is one of those films that plays on the sick side of camp, with musical numbers, tap dancing little girls, dolls and a look at the less glamorous areas of showbiz.

The trials of motherhood weigh heavily on the two lead characters, both women having to share the guilt of their sons' inability to reciprocate their love for them, and feeling that they've let them down somehow, rather than the other way around. Helen actually has more guilt about her son hating her for accidentally killing her own husband in a farming accident than for the act itself, and sees this as the reason he and Adelle's son have carried out the murder - to get back at their mothers.

All the way through the drama the shy, prim Helen shows signs of not being quite right in the head: maybe it's the way she holds sharp implements like scissors, or perhaps it's her religious obsession (she listens to firebrand preachers on the radio). Whatever, this gives us such darkly humorous scenes as the one where Adelle and her pupils are putting on a show for the talent scouts and have to nervously smile their way through a routine that is being undercut by Helen's offstage screams.

Adelle and the pushy mothers of the little girls are all looking for an easy route to success: the mothers through their children turning into the next Shirley Temple, and Adelle through marrying a rich millionaire (Dennis Weaver) who has taken an interest in her. But Helen, a symbol of her previous life, holds Adelle back all the time and ultimately ruins her chances of putting her past behind her. Finally, if it ends the way you expect, at least the film provides enough thrills and sly chuckles. Watch for: Shelley's manic piano playing, Debbie sharing a scene with Timothy Carey. Music by David Raksin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 7678 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Curtis Harrington  (1928 - 2007)

American cult director who graduated from experimental films (he was an associate of Kenneth Anger) to working as an assistant on Hollywood films like Peyton Place and The Long Hot Summer. He made several distinctive B-movies during the 60s and 70s, before turning his hand to mainstream American TV. His most notable films were Night Tide, starring a young Dennis Hopper, Queen of Blood, Games, the twisted thrillers Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? and What's the Matter with Helen?, and possession horror Ruby.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Who's the best?
Robin Askwith
Mark Wahlberg
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Paul Shrimpton
Graeme Clark
Lee Lopez
Jennifer Thomas
Enoch Sneed
Andrew Pragasam
  Rachel Franke
Jason Cook
   

 

Last Updated: