Dead Ringer (1964)

There’s just something about Bette Davis that, ever since I was young, has creeped me out. I’m not even sure I can put a finger on what it is. It could be her general demeanor. It could be the voice, it could be those celebrated “Bette Davis Eyes”. Whatever it is, for me, no one does insanely scary (or is that scarily insane?) like Miss Bette.

So how do you make a Bette Davis movie even creepier?  Simple: cast Miss Davis as twins who hate each other.

In Dead Ringer, Davis plays Margaret DeLorca, whose husband Frank has just died. At his funeral, her twin sister, Edith Phillips (also, as noted, played by Davis) shows up, after an estrangement of 18 years. Edith has returned to pay her respects to Frank, with whom she was also in love, and who had originally courted her, before being stolen away from her by Margaret. The two (Margaret and Frank) had an affair while Frank and Edith were seeing each other, and when Margaret announced that she was pregnant, Frank agreed to marry her.

After the funeral, the two sisters go to Margaret’s mansion, where the real differences between them quickly become apparent. While Margaret is quite rich and outgoing, Edith is currently down on her luck, and the cocktail lounge she is running is about to be shut down because she can’t pay her bills.

When Edith finds out that Margaret was not actually pregnant and that she and Frank never had children, she is furious, and quickly devises a plan of revenge against her sister.

From this point, the plot goes completely off the rails in the best way, but I’m not going to go into how, except to say that Miss Davis completely lives up to my image of her as one of the best psychotics ever to grace the big screen. She embodies both a fierceness and vulnerability that showcase her performance skills to their highest levels.

Also along for the ride in this funhouse of a movie are Karl Malden as Edith’s police sergeant boyfriend Jim and Peter Lawford as Margaret’s secret lover Tony, who may have a deadly secret of his own.

Gere’s a trailer for the film which, while it is kind of spoilery, does manage to avoid giving away the main twist. Watch at your own risk.

 

 

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