Review: ‘What’s the Matter with Helen?’

What's the Matter with Helen? is an okay exploitation shocker starring Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters as two Hollywood types of the early sound era caught up in mayhem and mutual suspicion. The good red-herring script is hindered from maximum impact by director Curtis Harrington, who raises the interest and excitement level too early and lets the film coast to less-than-tense resolution.

What’s the Matter with Helen? is an okay exploitation shocker starring Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters as two Hollywood types of the early sound era caught up in mayhem and mutual suspicion. The good red-herring script is hindered from maximum impact by director Curtis Harrington, who raises the interest and excitement level too early and lets the film coast to less-than-tense resolution.

Film opens with an excellent title sequence using period newsreel clips winding with a midwest Loeb-Leopold-type juve murder trial, where the femmes are mothers of the two slayers. Threatening phone calls spur pair to Hollywood, where they open a terp studio for would-be Shirley Temple carbons.

Reynolds finds romance with Dennis Weaver, the father of one of her pupils (Sammee Lee Jones). His Texas millionaire accent is a few feet too thick. Winters, mentally hassled by mysterious strangers across the street and unnerved by friends, turns more to the radio preachings of Agnes Moorehead, excellent in hard-sell evangelist role.

What's the Matter with Helen?

Production

Filmways/Raymax. Director Curtis Harrington; Producer George Edwards; Screenplay Henry Farrell; Camera Lucien Ballard; Editor William H. Reynolds; Music David Raksin; Art Director Eugene Lourie

Crew

(Color) Extract of a review from 1971. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Debbie Reynolds Shelley Winters Dennis Weaver Agnes Moorehead Micheal MacLiammoir Sammee Lee Jones
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