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<p>Dead Ringer (DVD)</p><p>What happened to Bette Davis after What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Her career was reborn. Warner Bros. encored it with another vehicle filled with Baby Jane-like bite and menace: Dead Ringer, stylishly directed by the lady’s Now, Voyager costar Paul Henreid. Davis plays estranged identical twins. Unmarried Edith has no money, no future. Widow Margaret has fabulous wealth – all because of marriage to the man she stole from Edith years ago. Out of long-festering revenge, Edith kills Margaret and takes her place. But new friends and surroundings, a snoopy cop (Karl Malden) who was Edith’s beau and the arrival of Margaret’s secret lover (Peter Lawford) may expose her masquerade.</p>
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Hot on the heels of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Bette Davis slipped neatly into another juicy thriller. This time, instead of co-starring with Joan Crawford, she got to play opposite... herself. Dead Ringer casts Davis as a wealthy (and nasty) widow, and also as her slatternly (but good) twin sister, long estranged. When the poor sister discovers the depths of her sib's evil, she takes a dramatic step that will test her skills as a thespian. Davis's old leading man, Paul Henreid, directs this material at a leaden pace, but Davis gives such a brazen performance, she pulls it through. Plus, the moments of high trash (a red-hot poker rammed into a hand, a lethal dog attack) are easily savored. Peter Lawford's seedy playboy and Karl Malden's stolid cop fill out the key supporting roles--not that anybody else matters. This is Bette Davis's world; everybody else is just visiting. --Robert HortonAdditional Features:
The idea of including a commentary track featuring expert Bette Davis impersonator and camp maestro Charles Busch is promising, but results in surprisingly subdued byplay with Davis biographer Boze Hadleigh. (Busch's film Die, Mommie, Die! is a sort of drag commentary of its own on movies such as Dead Ringer, which plot it apes.) Also included is an interview with Hadleigh and a featurette on the Doheny Mansion, location for this and many Hollywood movies. --Robert Horton
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