The Vulture looks at the classic Bette Davis thriller and fumes over the ridiculous ending.
Have you ever become unreasonably furious because a good movie has a stupid ending?
Chances are, yes, you have, but stop trying to answer rhetorical questions for a minute, and let me vent over how stupid the ending to Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) is. (Oh yeah, spoiler warning coming up for Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte, obviously, but I’m too pissed off to care right now.)
So right at the end of this fascinating suspense thriller, the two villains decide to loudly discuss their entire plan to deceive the protagonist, drive her insane, and take all her property. The plan that they just succeeded at. Moments ago. They just … blab everything out loud, right out there in the open.
“Hey, aren’t we clever, we know how her husband really died, then one of us pretended to be dead, and now we’ve driven her crazy, and we’re sending her to the loony bin and taking the house. Yay, us!”
Do they do this somewhere private? Not really, no. They do this in front of the protagonist’s home. Right underneath a giant, heavy stone planter that functions nicely as both: a.) a place of concealment for a wronged protagonist; and b.) an easily push-overable heavy object large enough to kill two people.
Guess where Bette Davis, our intrepid protagonist is? Not locked up in an asylum (yet), or even in her own room. Nope, she’s free to wander her own home and to stand behind a big heavy planter and listen to her loudmouthed conspirators, one of whom she thinks she buried.
The villains have been carefully working on this plan for 37 years. Yet they couldn’t wait one more day before blabbing about it on her front doorstep? How the hell did these idiots make it this far without blowing it? There are so many ways their overly complex plot could have gone wrong. Here, I’ll list a few …
1.) They had a props department custom-make a realistic severed head that looks like Bette Davis’ dead husband: That could have gone badly. What if the prop-maker talks? He’s got to at least be curious about why he’s making a replica head of a famous murder victim. And just how realistic is this thing? Bette Davis is carrying it at one point. We were centimetres away from having a scene where she taps the head like a coconut, and says “Very funny, guys!”
2.) Joseph Cotten tricks Davis into shooting him in the face with a revolver: Wow … so many problems here. Okay, I guess in 1964, most people didn’t realize that blanks are dangerous, but blanks are really dangerous. “The plan is working! She thinks that gun is a bouquet of flowers, and that I’m her husband! She’s finally going craz…” BANG! “Fuck! My eye!”
3.) Joseph Cotten then plays dead while Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis drive his “corpse” to a marsh, and then sink him in eight inches of crystal clear water: That’s just … wow. You can probably think of a dozen ways that plan could go wrong, but my favourite would just be for the body to get a case of the giggles during the trip.
4.) Since this movie’s not done ripping off Diabolique (1955) yet, Joseph Cotten then has to cover himself in lily pads and marsh water, and go “Ooga Booga” at Bette Davis like a vengeful swamp zombie: The evil plan goes kaput if Davis hugs him, saying “Thank goodness you’re alive!” Or if she shoots him again. Or if part of his leafy costume drops off. Or if he slips on his own mud and cracks his head on the banister.
Keep in mind, the audience doesn’t know about the evil plot either, until it gets blabbed at the end, so all of the carefully constructed menace and mystery goes out the window once it’s revealed. Grrrrr … stupid ending! At least the rest of the film is cool, and I got to imagine a dozen alternate endings that turn the film into a dark comedy.