PICTURE MOMMY DEAD
(director: Bert I. Gordon; screenwriter: Robert Sherman; cinematographer: Ellsworth Fredricks; editor: John Bushelman; music: Robert Drasnin; cast: Don Ameche (Edward), Martha Hyer (Francene), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Jessica), Susan Gordon (Susan), Maxwell Reed (Anthony), Wendell Corey (Clayborn), Signe Hasso (Sister Rene), Anna Lee (Elsie Kornwald); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bert I. Gordon; Columbia; 1966)
“Sicko cult horror movie, that comes with a twist ending.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
B film director Bert I. Gordon (“Empire of the Ants”/”The Mad Bomber”/”The Amazing Colossal Man”)directs this sicko cult horror movie, that comes with a twist ending. It’s written byRobert Sherman, who gets the maximum shock value from this familiar Baby Jane type of a flick.
The high school aged Susan (Susan Gordon) suffered from shock and amnesia when her mother Jessica (Zsa Zsa Gabor) perished in a house fire and she was confined to a Catholic boarding convent school to recover. Three years later her father Edward (Don Ameche) and new wife, the former estate governess Francene (Martha Hyer), return from their expensive travels to Europe and take Susan home to a restored Flagmore mansion. The caretaker of the estate is Susan’s embittered cousin Anthony Flagmore (Maxwell Reed), who has facial scars from his failed attempt to rescue Jessica that fatal night. Grumpy haranguing outspoken family attorney, Clayborn (Wendell Corey), informs the interested parties that for tax-saving purposes the house now belongs to the government, but the luxurious furnishings were bequeathed to Susan. There’s a fortune held in a trust fund that Susan will not be able to inherit until she’s 25. If Susan should die or be institutionalized, the money will go to Edward. The unhappy Anthony, who wanted more money from the will, will get the bulk of money only if Edward dies.
The hokey melodrama with stilted dialogue gives way to a story of the bitchy materialistic Francene willing to do anything to get her hands on the money after telling Edward she’s bored with him now that he’s broke, saying she only married him when she thought he would inherit the entire estate. Francene pushes Edward to remove Susan from the inheritance by any means, but when failing to get Edward to go along with her nefarious scheme she persuades her lover Anthony to help her recover from Susan the missing valuable necklace the daughter pinched from mom. It takes a thunderstorm to jolt Susan’s repressed memory of that fatal night and the events leading up to the fire are reconstructed. This leads to more chills, tragedy and another house fire.
The has-been actors are in a tired horror story, but it’s entertaining in a B film manner as it gets some mileage out of its awkwardly conceived comical fright scenes over the girl hearing voices, the girl’s doll when wound up crooning the creepy lullaby “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out. In your stomach and out your mouth…;” the tacky scene of Susan scratching the giant portrait of her mother wearing the expensive missing necklace to have blood smeared on the canvas; and a blood-curdling attack from one of Anthony’s pet hawks.
REVIEWED ON 5/12/2012 GRADE: B-