'Baby Jane?'

A sketch-worthy conceit manages to sustain itself over the feature-length haul of "Baby Jane?"

A sketch-worthy conceit manages to sustain itself over the feature-length haul of “Baby Jane?” Clearly a labor of fervent love, this black-and-white homage/parody meticulously revisits Robert Aldrich’s 1962 “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” albeit with a cast of (mostly) men in drag. Quite faithful, though mercifully shorter, it tweaks the original material just enough to avoid simple winking karaoke, with frequently very funny results. Sure to be a gay fest-circuit smash, it might find limited theatrical exposure as a film/live show package a la current “All About Evil.”

Matthew Martin (who’s played Bette Davis onstage for two decades) is Baby Jane, child vaudeville sensation-turned-failing movie star while hitherto ignored sister Blanche (J. Conrad Frank, less of a perfect ringer but nicely conveying Jane Crawford’s grandiosity) flourishes, until her career ends with a crippling car “accident.” Years later, Blanche is the wheelchair-bound prisoner of her now quite mad sibling. Heklina and Ron Herman Symansky, as nosy neighbors, are highlights of the amusing supporting cast. First-time feature writer-helmer Billy Clift reprises favorite lines and situations in slightly warped fashion; design contributions carefully mimic the originals.

Baby Jane?

Production

A Just Fine production. Produced by Heather MacLean, Billy Clift. Executive producers, Alexis Lecach, Roger K. Reid. Directed, written by Billy Clift.

Crew

Camera (B&W, DV-to-DigiBeta), John Lore; editors, Lore, Clift; music, John Bennett; production designer, William King; art director, Rachel Nichols; set decorator, Roger K. Reid; costume designer, Mr. David. Reviewed at Frameline (U.S. Features), San Francisco, June 22, 2010. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Matthew Martin, J. Conrad Frank, Heklina, Mike Finn, Alotta Boutte, Ethel Merman, Henna Rintz, Ron Herman Symansky, Drew Todd, Sandy Schlechter, Lady Bear, Mr. Lobo, Polyester, Jeff Dylan Graham, Vincent de Paul.

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