Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

PICTURE MOMMY DEAD

Martha Hyer and Don Ameche
PICTURE MOMMY DEAD (1966). Director: Bert I. Gordon.

Young Susan Shelley (Susan Gordon) gets out of a "convent" for the mentally disturbed three years after the death of her mother, Jessica (Zsa Zsa Gabor), in a fire in their mansion. Her father, Edward (Don Ameche), has been traveling the world with his new viper-like wife, the former governess, Francine (Martha Hyer), and now they are nearly broke. Another member of this highly dysfunctional household is Jessica's cousin, Anthony (Maxwell Reed), who was disfigured in the fire and will inherit money if both Edward and his daughter should happen to die, something which Francine is also happily aware of. But the murder victim may be more unexpected than you imagine. Picture Mommy Dead  -- one of a number of thrillers made by director Gordon, who had previously specialized in movies about giant people and monsters -- isn't that good, but it has a fairly interesting script that just misses the mark. A big problem with the picture is that Susan Gordon, the director's daughter, is too inexperienced (despite 25 previous credits!) to handle such a difficult and demanding role, although she gets an E for Effort. Zsa Zsa appears in a few flashbacks and isn't given anything too demanding to do, while Hyer plays her bitchy part with a little zest but little real skill. Ameche [Slightly French] comes off better, but Maxwell Reed of Daybreak is only somewhat effective. Wendell Corey delivers the goods in his one scene, playing a lawyer who is so tactlessly blunt with everyone that it's a wonder nobody murders him right then and there.

Verdict: Not terrible, but Gordon probably should not have cast his daughter. **1/2.


2 comments:

angelman66 said...

Bill, I have been wanting to see this one for years...I don't think I've ever seen it broadcast on TCM. At Northwestern, the rehearsal room we used to use for theater practice was The Martha Hyer Wallis Theater (endowed by husband producer Hal Wallis). I like her a lot in Carpetbaggers though I am always more dazzled by Carroll Baker in that one than Hyer.

I had the pleasure of spending time with Zsa Zsa in the early 1990s when she spent a lot of time in Palm Beach...she was a trip! I have only seen her in Moulin Rouge and Queen of Outer Space...look forward to seeing her in this.

-Chris

William said...

It's on youtube in a imperfect but watchable print. I remember it got a lot of attention when it was first released. I think it was the title, the ad campaign, and the cast, more high-profile than the usual Gordon film.

Zsa Zsa was indeed a trip! I never met her, but years ago Larry Quirk was hired by a friend, a sort of record "producer" at the time, to write lyrics for a song she was going to do in a new act or on a recording. it was about that incident when she slapped a cop. It wasn't Larry's usual kind of thing, but I remember he came up with a very funny song -- wish I still had it. As for whether Zsa Zsa ever sang the song or did the act, I have no idea.