Tuesday, March 13, 2012


UPDATE: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? has been postponed until fall.  More info here.

 Hot on the heels of Cinema 21's Double Indemnity/Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed double feature,  Tom Ranieri and his staff have lined up yet another cinematic treat for Portland film fans.  This time around, it's a triple feature of films from 1962.  To Kill a Mockingbird, The Manchurian Candidate and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? are all turning 50 this year and Cinema 21's throwing them a week-long birthday party.

A still from To Kill a Mockingbird

Nominated for 7 Academy awards (and the winner of 3, for best actor, screenplay and art direction), To Kill a Mockingbird is the most lauded of the films.  Robert Mulligan's adaptation of Harper Lee's novel used to be compulsory viewing back when I was in elementary school (is it still?).  If there's a kid-friendly film among the trio being celebrated this week, this is it.  Featuring a stellar debut performance by a very young Robert Duvall as the iconic Boo Radley.

A still from The Manchurian Candidate

Remade in 2004 by Jonathan Demme as a Denzel Washington vehicle, the original 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate holds up remarkably well today, rejecting any notions that this tense thriller needed updating.  Boasting a stellar cast (Angela Landsbury's name may not be featured on the poster but her menacing, Oscar-nominated performance is the best in the film), tight direction by John Frankenheimer and tension-infused cinematography by Lionel Lindon, the film transforms noir tropes from the prior generation, repurposing them to potent effect, and is arguably the template for many of the best paranoia-induced thrillers of the 70s (think: The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor).

A still from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is by far the creepiest (and, perhaps, the most fun) of the bunch.  Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play aging sisters who have always been at odds due to a jealousy stemming from childhood.  Both stars milk their roles for all they're worth here; Davis was nominated for best actress for her portrayal of Baby Jane Hudson, a character that is one of Hollywood's most sinister explorations of the psychologically damaging effects of child stardom.

If I could only make it to one of these films, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? would be the one.

To Kill a Mockingbird (@4:15pm), The Manchurian Candidate (@7pm) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (@9:15) runs March 16th thru 22nd at Cinema 21.  Admission for each film is $5.  A double feature will only set you back $8.  Don't miss out!

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