Review: The Anniversary
Bette Davis plays an eye-patch wearing, manipulative, dominating, and venomous matriarch whose rotten children come to celebrate the anniversary of their mother’s wedding to deceased daddy (Davis didn’t even like him). James Cossins is the eldest, a socially-awkward, cross-dressing panty-snatcher whom Davis seems to approve of, which is only significant when you consider the things she does not tolerate. Jack Hedley is the middle child, married to a woman (Sheila Hancock) so outspoken that he never has to stand up to his mother himself, which suits him fine and dandy (they also have a couple of snotty kids and plan on telling Mummy about their plans to move to Canada to get away from her stranglehold). Lastly we have Christian Roberts, the youngest, who has invited his pregnant fiancé Elaine Taylor along, obviously so he can annoy his likely disapproving mother. Needless to say, it’s going to be a bumpy night. Yeah, I went there.
Frankly disappointing, 1968 Black Comedy (really, really black) from Hammer Studios gets good work out of Davis (in her element, especially early on) and bizarro Cossins, but gives us no one to root for and it can’t escape its staginess. It’s all talk, all the time. It’s sick and twisted, but after a while, I got tired and bored. Directed by the usually reliable Roy Ward Baker (“The Vampire Lovers”, “Scars of Dracula”) and written by fellow Hammer regular Jimmy Sangster (“The Mummy”, “Brides of Dracula”, “The Nanny”, a better Davis vehicle for Hammer), based on the Bill MacIlwraith play. This one only really works in fits and starts, I’m afraid. It sure is odd, though. It’s got that in spades. I just wish everyone would shut up after a while.