Great Villains: Baby Jane Hudson

She wasn’t a mass murderer, a vicious gangster, or a supernatural sorceress, but Baby Jane Hudson still ranks as one of cinema’s most sinister villains, just for being herself: a sister, a child star, and an abuser. Played by Bette Davis in Robert Aldrich’s 1962 film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Baby Jane was named one of AFI’s Top 50 Villains, and well deservedly so, as she’s one of the most insidious villains in movie history—even without a sky-high body count.

Strait-Jacket (1964)

Strait-Jacket is a delightfully campy ’60s thriller starring the indomitable Joan Crawford, directed by B-movie legend William Castle, and written by Robert Bloch, whom you may know as the author of Psycho. With all those pedigrees in place, it’s no wonder that Strait-Jacket is a classic of Grand Guignol horror and a thoroughly enjoyable piece of high schlock.

The Phantom of Hollywood (1974)

On the surface, The Phantom of Hollywood, a TV movie from 1974, may seem like it’d only appeal to the most devoted of B-horror aficionados. A retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, the film has plenty of inventive killings and questionable dialogue to satisfy those viewers, but it also holds value for fans of classic films—particularly those interested in MGM. That’s because The Phantom of Hollywood was actually filmed on the MGM backlot as it was being parceled off and torn down. The movie makes great use of that decaying, yet familiar, setting, and also creates a fun, rebellious, pro-film anti-hero as its villain.

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)

As is happily typical with their programming, the New Beverly delivered unto me a long-awaited, yet previously unavailable, movie interest of mine: Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The 1977 not-on-DVD classic stars Diane Keaton and baby versions of Tom Berenger, Richard Gere, and LeVar Burton, and is based on the real-life 1973 murder of Roseann Quinn.

Mommie Dearest

I became supremely excited as Mommie Dearest neared on my watch-schedule, because even though a lot of its fame comes from being so over-the-top, it’s a movie that’s definitely been absorbed into the collective pop culture unconscious. I’m always fascinated by movies like this, where I already know most of the plot, the famous scenes, lines, could probably identify it in a police lineup, etc., and yet I haven’t ever seen it. Someone makes a “wire hangers” joke here, a Simpsons spoof episode there, and over time I’ve unwittingly absorbed half the movie.