In 1962, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford — during the twilight of their careers — ushered in a new subgenre in film: psycho biddy cinema. Robert Aldrich’s Academy-Award-winning What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? found the grande dames isolated in a decaying Hollywood mansion, where their minds had deteriorated in kind. The gothic melodrama arrived on Blu-ray today, and we wanted to celebrate the occasion by taking a look back at other over-the-top films that featured unhinged, older women haunted by their past. Since the ‘60s, the subgenre has evolved and inspired some creepy aging idols in horror cinema, too. Since we don’t discriminate when it comes to demented elderly characters, we had to include them as well. See more psychotic, gray-haired grotesquerie after the jump.
The incomparable Bette Davis kicked off psycho biddy cinema with her memorable role in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? as aging child star, Jane Hudson. The young, spoiled Jane was adored by her fans and father — her popularity even inspiring the creation of a look-alike doll. As she grew older, Jane’s star had fallen and her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) became the successful sibling. The obsessive and competitive relationship the two women shared eventually eroded their fame, and the sisters wound up as retired, reclusive actresses isolated from the rest of the world. Abuse and terror reigned in their crumbling mansion, and the sinister, doll-like Jane stops at nothing to find the spotlight once more after a terrible family secret is revealed. Behind the scenes, both queens of the big screen fought for supremacy when it came to top billing. Fights were reported to frequently erupt on set and Davis’ Oscar nomination didn’t sit well with Crawford.