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Hammer’s THE ANNIVERSARY starring BETTE DAVIS, SHEILA HANCOCK, JACK HEDLEY, JAMES COSSINS, CHRISTIAN ROBERTS and TIMOTHY BATESON

Hammer studios are, of course, most famous for their horror productions; but the studio also gave us a number of films from other genres, and THE ANNIVERSARY is a huge non-horror highlight! This camp and perfectly pitched black comedy is directed by one of the studio's heavyweight directors, Roy Ward Baker, and is probably most well-known for the fact that it stars the great Bette Davis. However, the positive elements don't end there as THE ANNIVERSARY benefits from a strong script and a varied array of characters who ensure the action is always entertaining and filled with tension. The central plot is brilliantly simple: it follows a family gathering for the anniversary of an overbearing mother and her late husband. She requests, nay demands the presence of her three sons; a shy cross-dresser, a henpecked father of five and a careless youth who brings a different fiancé every year - and proceeds to rip them to pieces.

Bette Davis completely controls every scene she's in, but leaves plenty of breathing room to the support cast, who all give realistic and interesting performances. Sheila Hancock (HOW I WON THE WAR, THE MOON-SPINNERS), Jack Hedley (GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS, THE NEW YORK RIPPER), James Cossins (A DANDY IN ASPIC, THE LOST CONTINENT), Christian Roberts (TO SIR WITH LOVE, TWISTED NERVE) and Elaine Taylor (HALF A SIXPENCE, CASINO ROYALE) provide perfect balance for Davis, and the combined cast gives credibility to a script that could have ended up too much of a comical film. The film is based on a stage play by Bill MacIlwraith, and perhaps the best thing about his writing is the way he manages to bring out traits from the vindictive matriarch in all three of her sons. As you'd expect, it's Bette Davis who gets the best lines and seeing the great actress have fun delivering them is deliciously entertaining. The central setting - the parental home – is another important character in the story. The claustrophobic walls of the home keep us aware that the support characters are very much in Davis' domain, her web, if you will. THE ANNIVERSARY is one of the very best films Hammer ever made and it comes highly recommended to all!

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