The Nanny (1965)

THE NANNY (1965)
Article #609 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-14-2002
Posting date: 4-10-2003

A boy just returned home from a mental hospital is hostile to his family and especially his nanny, who he believes is trying to kill him.

The whole story in this film hinges upon a backstory involving the death of the boy’s sister, and the movie is almost two-thirds of the way through before we make our way to the two crucial flashbacks which explain the story. This stretch could have been tedious, but the strong acting throughout, interesting characters, and a stunning performance by Bette Davis in the title role hold the viewer’s attention until then. Though I’d seen several Davis movies before this one, this is the one that convinced me she was a truly great actress; playing a character who must keep her true feelings hidden while keeping a loving, caring surface on display inspires her to give a powerful, subtle performance, one where a simple shifting of the eyes is enough to speak volumes; I’ve never seen her more restrained nor more effective. The flashbacks themselves are unexpectedly powerful, telling a nightmarish but devastatingly sad tale that fleshes out the movie immensely. There is also some superb editing at work, particularly in the second flashback and the climactic scene of the movie. It’s not perfect; the child is a little too petulant and blase for the situation that he is in, and the very last scene is a little too neat, easy and contrived, but all in all, this remains perhaps the most compelling Hammer movie I’ve seen, one that owes more to Val Lewton than to their other horror movies.

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