It's 1964, and Aldrich, resigned to making another "women's picture" after the failure of his Baby Jane follow-up, chooses to adapt another book by the Baby Jane author, Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? Jack Warner strongarms Aldrich into reuniting Bette and Joan, but Aldrich does an end run around him and makes a better deal at a different studio. Against their better instincts, Bette and Joan both sign on for this movie, but Hedda Hopper tips off Joanie to a rumor about a porn movie going around that might feature Joanie in her youth. Meanwhile, Aldrich's marriage is crumbling, and the only one he can turn to for comfort is Bette.
John Waters as William Castle? That was quite a surprise! Not that I believed he was the PT Barnum of horror movies in the opening scene, where Joanie appears at a screening of Strait Jacket - he might have shaved his mustache, for one thing - but clearly, this was a bit of stunt casting. Waters' love for Castle and his films, especially his bizarre promotional stunts, is known. I imagine Waters must have leapt at the chance to play one of his idols.
Castle, and the kinds of films he specialized in, are better appreciated today, thanks to home video, cable TV, and cult movie magazines like Fangoria, but for an actress of Joanie's caliber to appear in one in 1964 must have been jarring. She belonged to a different era, where she made different kinds of movies. Small wonder she felt humiliated in not only making it, but promoting it. Warner talked about "hagsploitation" - apparently Joanie wasn't the only Golden Age actress making horror movies - and it must have been a sure sign the studios were in decline, something Warner also talks about when he says he's the last mogul standing.
It was good to see Alfred Molina as Aldrich again, especially when he finally stood up to Warner. Aldrich's failing marriage was established earlier; last night was the sad payoff. Molly Price plays Harriet Aldrich. I really like her scenes with Molina. Harriet tries to be supportive of her husband, but even when he's with her, he's not with her, as that final scene in Part 2 exemplifies.
The scenes with Joanie and her brother seemed even more melodramatic than usual for this series, like it was something out of Dynasty. Frankly, I didn't care much for that subplot. It just seemed like a tangent that, while it may be historically notable, didn't add much to the overall story.
"Cousin Charlotte," of course, would go on to become the film Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. I saw it under somewhat trying circumstances. I didn't get much of a sense of it at all. Perhaps I'll rewatch it before Feud ends, though I doubt it'll be as essential as Baby Jane since Joanie ends up leaving the film.