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Dead Ringer

Bette Davis vs. Bette Davis: May the best hag win!

Rod Lott October 8th, 2012

Eighteen years after her twin sister, Margaret, unforgivably stole her beau, Edith reunites with her at the man's funeral. Margaret's a globetrotting socialite who skipped their own father's services; Edith is a financially strapped owner of a dingy L.A. cocktail lounge; both sibs are played by Bette Davis in the new-to-Blu 1964 thriller Dead Ringer — a remake of a Mexican film from the '40s, as you'll learn in the disc's featurette.


Note that the title is singular and, therefore, not to be confused with David Cronenberg's plural Dead Ringers. But the idea of Bette Davis playing twin gynecologists? Now that would be something to see!

As directed by actor Paul Henreid, who helmed many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, this one is take-it-or-leave-it. The idea of Davis vs. Davis is an intriguing one, but Edith kills Margaret early on, stages it as a suicide, and assumes the rich widow's identity and her oil-built mansion (the subject of the Blu-ray's vintage promo short). The suspense — such as it is; the film is not exactly swimming in it — is whether the woman will get away with the ruse. Not if Peter Lawford has anything to say about it!

Veering nowhere toward a horror angle that the excellent poster art suggests, the black-and-white Dead Ringer would work better as one of Henreid's Hitchcock episodes. At two hours, the story becomes a creaky relic with A-list talent. Among them are Karl Malden (was it written into his contract that he always had to wear that hat?) and My Fair Lady composer André Previn, whose sinister score grants more mood than any other element.

The role of Frowny Old Bitch was not exactly a stretch for Davis, even in '64. The better Blu-ray buy is the 50th-anniversary edition of 1962's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which Warner Home Video has released simultaneously. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?: Anniversary Edition Blu-ray review  

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