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

Thursday, April 28, 2011


THE ANNIVERSARY (1968). Directed by Roy Ward Baker.

"We've all got our little idiosyncracies."

In this fascinating and grotesque black comedy that seems to have improved with time, Bette Davis has a ball spoofing herself and playing the monstrous widow-with-an-eye-patch, Mrs. Taggart. Each year the family -- owners of a shoddy construction business -- must get together to celebrate -- if that's the word -- the death of Mrs. Taggart's late husband, and each year Mrs. T spars with her children and in-laws, especially the female members. Henry (James Cossins) is an unapologetic transvestite and fancier of women's undergarments while brother Terry (Jack Hedley) lets his mother control his life. The youngest son, Tom (Christian Roberts), has a bit more gumption, and each year brings along a fiancee that Mrs. T insists he has no intention of marrying. This year the young lady is Shirley (Elaine Taylor), who is nearly as domineering as the feisty widow and gives as good as she gets. The Anniversary is bolstered by some excellent dialogue and a series of well-developed if pathetic characters crying out beneath the humor. Mrs. T is so horrible at times -- she tells Terry and his wife that their children have been in an accident when no such accident occurred -- that she often seems more of a unnatural force for the others to play against than a real human being, but that only adds to the film's undeniable impact. Fine acting helps put the whole thing over, with Davis in good form and Taylor and Sheila Hancock (as Terry's furious, near-desperate wife) almost stealing the picture from Davis -- but everyone is wonderful.

Verdict: If nothing else, it's certainly different! ***1/2.

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