It's hard to know where to begin praising this film but let's start with a smart screenplay by Henry Farrell [Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?] and Lukas Heller. By the time they're done leading you by the hand you're convinced that everyone killed Charlotte's lost love John Mayhew. The cinematography and lighting are gorgeous with sets and costumes to match. Add a strong music score and each scene is composed to perfection and maximum emotional impact. Kudos to director Robert Aldrich [Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Dirty Dozen] for pulling all these elements together for maximum effect.
Now, let's talk about the cast of characters. HHSC is the story of Charlotte Hollis, an aging Southern bell who is more than a tad bit demented. She's haunted by the murder of her one true love and is unable to recover from the loss. Bette Davis gives an over-the-top, riding off the rails on a crazy train performance as Charlotte that only she can give. I'm a huge fan and love to watch her work her mojo on screen. Olivia de Havilland [Gone With the Wind, The Snake Pit] plays Charlotte's cousin Miriam who comes for a visit. de Haviland is a vision of beauty and refinement which serves as the perfect counterpoint for Davis' frenetic energy. Joseph Cotten [Lady Frankenstein, The abominable Dr. Phibes, Soylent Green] is their childhood friend Drew who is also Charlotte's doctor. It's the most dysfunctional triangle I've seen in a long time on screen. Add to this mix the wacky caretaker of the Hollis Mansion [Agnes Morehead] and you're in for one heck of a ride. There are also cameo roles for Victor Buono and Bruce Dern so what's not to like about this film?
I could go on but HHSC is a must-see. If you like who-dunnits, then this one should be on the top of your rental list. If all murder mysteries were made this well, we would be most fortunate indeed. A total home run from start to finish.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.