This is the second of two boxed sets celebrating the one hundredth birthday of Bette Davis. The other one is from Warner Home Video, and since Bette Davis is often called "the fifth Warner Brother", obviously Warner's has a much larger library of films from which to choose. My main complaint with this set is not that the films are not good, but that two of the films - "Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte" and "All About Eve" have already been released by Fox under the Studio Classics label. That leaves only three films new to DVD in this set.
As for the three films that are new to DVD, chances are you may have never even heard of them, much less seen them. The problem is that Fox owns the rights, won't let anyone else such as Turner Classic Movies televise them, and would rather televise "Wall Street" ten times a month on the Fox Movie Channel rather than put these older good films on at all.
All About Eve (1950) - This film brought Davis' career back from the brink and set up a very productive second act in her career. Margo (Bette Davis) plays an insecure aging star who helps a very poisonous young ingenue, Eve, (Anne Baxter) get started. As Margo, Davis throws some of the best tantrums of her career. Just when you think there is nobody more evil than Anne Baxter's Eve Harrington, along comes George Sander's Addison DeWitt and kicks her to the curb in that category.
The special features are:
Audio Commentaries -
1. Celeste Holm - Star; Joseph L. Mankiewicz - Director; Ken Geist - Author/Film Biographer; Christopher Mankiewicz - Director's Son
2. Sam Staggs - Author/Film Historian
Isolated Audio Track - Musical Score
Disc 2: ALL ABOUT EVE - Supplemental Material
Additional Release Material:
Additional Footage - "MovieTone News: 1951 Academy Awards Honor Best Film Achievements, 1951 Hollywood Attends Gala Premiere of "All About Eve," Holiday Magazine Awards, Look Magazine Awards"
Behind the Scenes -
1. "AMC Backstory: ALL ABOUT EVE"
Comparisons - Restoration Comparison
1. "Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey"
2. "The Real Eve"
1. "Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz"
2. "The Secret of Sarah Siddons"
Phone Call From a Stranger (1952) - This is an odd pick for a boxed set about Bette Davis, since she has practically a cameo role here. Instead the lead role goes to Davis' husband at the time, Gary Merrill. The film is about four strangers on a plane that is destined to crash. Only one survives (Gary Merrill). After the crash, he goes to contact the families of the three who did not survive the crash and finds three very different groups of people with different problems. You hardly ever see this one on TV, and it is very good so that is too bad. Just don't expect big doses of Davis in this one.
The Queen (1955) - This is Davis' second film in which she plays Queen Elizabeth I of England. Personally, I thought 1939's "Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" was better, but it is hard to compare the two since this film takes place 15 years earlier in history than "Private Lives" and has Davis essentially playing Elizabeth at the age - 47 - that Davis actually is. Here Richard Todd plays Sir Walter Raleigh, who, like Essex in the earlier film, is a younger man who trades on Elizabeth's love for him to gain some personal glory. Richard Todd plays Raleigh effectively, but there is just no topping the charisma of Flynn in the earlier movie. Special features:
Behind the Scenes - A "Making Of" featurette
Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) - Meant to be a kind of sequel to "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", this film is missing the dynamic of those dueling actresses, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Instead we have the perennial sweet thing of the golden age of Hollywood, Olivia de Havilland, playing opposite to Bette Davis. As a teenager Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) was presumed guilty of killing her married lover. Her wealthy father got her out of it, but Charlotte has lived as a recluse ever since and is facing eviction from the family plantation. Her cousin Miriam Deering (Olivia de Havilland) comes to visit just as Charlotte seems to be going over the edge with visions of her murdered lover from 37 years before.
Behind the Scenes - "Hush...Hush, Sweet Joan: The Making of CHARLOTTE"
1. "Bruce Dern Remembers"
2. "Wizard Work" (Vintage Featurette)
The Nanny (1965) - Another one you don't see very often anywhere. In fact it's been years since I've seen it and I can't even remember where. Ten year old Joey has a new nanny, Bette Davis. I don't think she even had a name in this one, just "the nanny". Nobody believes disturbed Joey when he claims that the nanny is evil and wants to kill him - she's such a sweet old lady. You know where this one is probably going from the start, but it's interesting to watch it play out. However, there is some very disturbing stuff in this one, so note that it might be difficult to watch. It takes real advantage of the fact that Davis could play anything from the sweetest to the most evil person in the world, and turn on a dime at either end of the scale.
All of the films have trailers and a stills gallery as extras. I am rating this set as follows:
Value - 3 stars due to the two double-dips.
Quality - 5 stars since the films are all very good.
Result: 4 stars