What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971)

Another horror-thriller from the screenwriter of both “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and “Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (don’t you just love those titles?), “What’s the Matter with Helen” is one of his weaker efforts, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its merits. There’s enough psycho-sexual undercurrent here to keep a psychology student occupied for a full semester, but what really makes the film work are the central performances by Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters. Reynolds brings her trademark solipsistic charms to her rather vacuous character, while Winters tears into her role with her usual panache, bringing raw vitality to a role where a lesser actress could easily have gone over-the-top. The movie rapidly starts falling apart in the second half, but the shock climax is pretty good and the movie maintains a strange hypnotic spell that carries the viewer even through the weaker moments.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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