The Nanny (1965)
Ten year-old Joey is released from a disturbed children’s home and returns to his family, where he is under the care of nanny Bette Davis. Joey accuses nanny of being responsible for his sister’s ‘accidental’ death, the event which put him in the children’s home in the first place. But is nanny responsible? Things take a further turn for the worse when Joey’s mother is poisoned….was it the nanny or Joey?
A vintage hammer horror movie which, put simply, is nothing more than a gothic “Tom & Jerry” cartoon pitting our evil nanny against an innocent child. Edgy, dark and extremely well-shot, this is a film which plays on the mind for hours.
Nevertheless, it is dated and if you aren’t fond of the British cycle of 60s horror movies produced by hammer studios, this certainly won’t change your mind. So, if this applies to you, what I am saying is that you should stop reading here….
Bette Davis plays the nanny perfectly – but hers is no brilliantly grotesque (i.e. over-the-top) performance as in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (for my review of that film see https://hotdogcinema.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/what-ever-happened-to-baby-jane-1962/) – Davis acts it cool with a complete absence of the melodramatic tension of her earlier “psycho-biddy” roles.
In contrast, the child actors whilst cute are almost cringing in their performances and this is where I think the film falls down, making the film appear stuck in a 60s London timewarp. Specifically, Will Dix as Joey is annoying and cheekily wooden.
The B & W camerawork throughout is almost exhibitionist and creates a very claustrophobic atmosphere, heightened by the fact that the vast majority of the film takes place in a single flat in a London townhouse.
Howard Hawks once said in response to the question “What makes a great movie?” : “3 great scenes and no bad ones” and I think this applies here. There are, at least, three fantastic scenes in this picture. The first being the the prank played by little Joey on his nurse at the children’s hospital; the second being the flash-back sequence of the “accident” and the third, well let’s just say that’s the finale.
A chilling, if flawed, take on “Mary Poppins” with some extremely disturbing shots of children in peril. Watch after 12 with the lights off….
hotdog rating: 7/10