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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > British > The Anniversary (1967/Hammer/Anchor Bay DVD)

The Anniversary (1967/Hammer)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+      Extras: B-     Film: B-



After Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) became a huge hit for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, both actresses though it would revive their careers outright.  Instead, they found themselves in the Horror genre and a cycle of thrillers with Classic Hollywood actors (especially female) resulted, including Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1965, reviewed elsewhere on this site) that had Davis but not Crawford, as she bowed out at the last minute.  Davis also became the larger beneficiary of the hit, continuing in the genre longer and Roy Ward Baker’s The Anniversary (1967) was one of those films.


Davis had already made The Nanny (1965) in England for the Hammer Studios as they tried to expand outside of the monster/creature films that put them on the map.  The company made the first full color Frankenstein and Dracula films and both were written by the great James Sangster, who also wrote The Nanny and once again was back writing The Anniversary.  Released by 20th Century Fox in 1968 and based on the Bill MacIlwriath’s play, Davis is an eyepatch-wearing mother and matriarch with three boys who are grown men, but not as grown as they should be.  Her husband has been dead for years, but she pushes them into getting together with her for her 40th wedding anniversary as if he were alive.


She also talks to a shrine she has made to him as if he were either alive somewhere else or it were a gateway to another world, but the real key to Davis’ performance is that she knows that she is doing an extremely demented version of her work in All About Eve (1950) as if it were the return of the repressed.  That repression extends to her in real life, her persona, her career and the just-crumbling structure of the old studio system itself.  That it resurfaces in a British film, especially from its most famous Horror studio is all the more ironic.


Rude with class at the outset, Mrs. Taggart (Davis) is the kind of woman who has a mind that if any kind of complement entered it, it would die of loneliness.  Besides the usual (and even tired) Freudian complications, she is determined to challenge all newcomers.  Sangster wrote a solid adaptation that no matter how far Davis went, this most extravagant of true dark comedies offered more than enough to back Davis’ profound talents.  Baker is one of the all-time great British Gentleman directors and had worked with Davis before.  The experience pays off as they are on the same page and this little gem is finally out on DVD for everyone to enjoy.  The message of this film, never underestimate what a great actress Davis was.  While others were trying to imitate Baby Jane, she was going into the next potentially interesting project.  The Anniversary is definitely worth your time.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image shows its age somewhat, but was shot very well by the great cinematographer Harry Waxman.  Color is usually consistent, but detail can be more of a problem in spots.  The Christopher Neame/Reece Pemberton Production Design is also distinctive, as is expected from Hammer productions of the time.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is fine for its age, with dialogue that is clear and distinctive enough for its age.  Extras include original trailer and TV spot to promote the film, text on the cats and crew, stills section with poster art and stills and Perry Martin hosting another solid audio commentary by Baker and Sangster.  Anchor Bay continues its Hammer releases with a new source and let’s hope we see more good product like this.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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