Mrs. Taggart is the one-eyed monster-mother, who, every year, demands the presence of her three grown sons at the celebration of her wedding anniversary. But the father has been dead for years and Mrs. Taggart has dominated and manipulated her sons so they will always stay close by.
Bette Davis ... Mrs. Taggart
Sheila Hancock ... Karen Taggart
Jack Hedley ... Terry Taggart
James Cossins ... Henry Taggart
Christian Roberts ... Tom Taggart
Elaine Taylor ... Shirley Blair
Timothy Bateson ... Mr. Bird
Sally-Jane Spencer ... Florist
Arnold Diamond ... Head waiter
Albert Shepherd ... Construction Worker
Ralph Watson ... Construction Worker
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 famous for the fact that it stars the great Bette Davis in the sort of role that made her famous. However, the positive elements don\'t end there as The Anniversary benefits from a strong script and a varied array of characters that ensure the action is always entertaining and filled with tension. The film is an obvious inspiration for modern hits such as the Danish \'Festen\', and works due its claustrophobic setting and well drawn characters. The central plot is brilliantly simple, and follows a family gathering for the anniversary of an overbearing mother and her late husband. She 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 to meet his mother every year - and proceeds to rip them to pieces.
Bette Davis is undoubtedly the lead star of this production, and she completely controls every scene she\'s in; thus giving a huge compliment to the support cast, who all give realistic and interesting performances. Sheila Hancock, Jack Hedley, James Cossins, Christian Roberts and Elaine Taylor provide perfect support for Davis, and the combined cast give credibility to a script that could have ended up giving way to 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 brilliantly entertaining and ensures that the black comedy elements always shine through. The central setting - the parental home - makes up the backbone of the story and is an ingenious place for the story to take place, as we\'re always aware that the support characters are very much in Davis\' domain and the fact that most of the action takes place under one roof means that claustrophobia is a big part of the story. This film may be avoided by some Hammer fans who are only interested in the horror - but it really shouldn\'t be. I don\'t hesitate to name this as one of the very best films Hammer ever made and it comes highly recommended to all!
My mother thought this film was hilarious, while my father thought it was a gruesome depiction of how awful people can be. I think it\'s both. I laughed so hard, but I felt bad about it later.
This movie is warped. The characters are warped. It\'s a weird trip that makes me think Tennessee Williams meets \"Who\'s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.\" We have a set number of people, in the same place, and they just rage at each other for the entire duration of the film. (Speaking of \"Virginia Woolf\"--Elizabeth Taylor could play Mrs. Taggart in a remake...a diamond studded eyepatch. It would be fabulous.)
It\'s fortunate that this meeting of the monsters was filmed, as you\'ll never see so many relentlessly horrible people in one place ever again. Front, center, left, right, and diagonal is the massive one-eyed Mrs. Taggart, who lost her eye in an accident involving one of her children. She\'s a card, you can tell right off. She has different eye patches to match her outfits--I think that\'s probably a sign of mental illness. She celebrates her anniversary every year so her delightful children can continue to be stuck in her clutches. When the youngest (who gives Mum the \"Pissing Boy\") tries to alter tradition, Mrs. Taggart crashes into action. She knows everything about everybody, and it\'s darned hard to outsmart her. Not that she\'s all that smart, but she\'s wicked and quite cunning. She has her blackmail schemes planned to the nth degree.
Additionally, there are several moments designed to disturb. They sort of interrupt the story, but who cares? Leaving your glass eye in strategic places is fun! Mrs. Taggart thinks it is, but she\'d probably eat babies if given the chance. And while we\'re at it, let\'s not forget the girlfriend with the ears! She\'s a barrel of laughs.
Best moment--Mrs. Taggart makes her big entrance, as a record plays her song, only to trip on the steps. That describes the movie perfectly. It\'s like falling down stairs. Funny to some people, but not so entertaining to the people involved.
Quite simply, Bette Davis dominates every scene and every aspect of The Anniversary. If you don\'t like Bette Davis, you\'d be wise to skip this one altogether. Davis plays Mrs. Taggart, the overbearing mother to three sons. She controls every aspect of their lives. They cannot make a move without her approval. And if she doesn\'t approve, she\'s not above ruining one of her sons if it suits her selfish purposes. The Anniversary covers the events surrounding the annual celebration of Mrs. Taggart\'s wedding anniversary to the late Mr. Taggart. It\'s Mrs. Taggart\'s day and she lets everyone know it. She uses this event to cement her control over her sons by threatening financial ruin, jail, and/or public humiliation and by degrading them and their significant others.
Bette Davis is in fine form in The Anniversary. She\'s evil, vindictive, manipulative, and a ton of fun. She chews scenery like nobody\'s business. The rest of the cast is good, but they are no match for Ms. Davis. Some of the comments she makes to her youngest son\'s new fiancé are unbelievable. One of the best is when she quite casually tells the girl, \"My dear, would you mind sitting somewhere else? Body odor offends me.\" Another priceless example is Mrs. Taggart\'s reaction to the frightened fiancé when she discovers Mrs. Taggart\'s glass eye in her bed. I don\'t know of many actresses who could pull-off being so rude and just plain evil and still have the viewer rooting for them.
Hammer Studios made this incredibly black comedy during the 60s when a lot of aging female stars were taking roles in horror movies. The Anniversary may not be a horror film, but it\'s certainly not the norm you would expect for someone like Bette Davis. I don\'t know how The Anniversary did financially upon release, but it\'s the kind of movie I would have liked to have seen Hammer making more of in the late 60, early 70s. Who knows? It might have saved the company.