Picture Mommy Dead (1966)

Bert I. Gordon was known as “Mister B.I.G.” which was a reference to both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies with giant-sized monsters and people like The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Colossal Beast and Attack of the Puppet People.

His daughter Susan Gordon appears in this movie as well. This was her last film role, as she also was in four of Gordon’s other films: the aforementioned Attack of the Puppet People, The Boy and the Pirates and Tormented.

In this film, which originally aired on December 3, 1969 on ABC, Susan plays Susan Shelley, who believes that her father Edward (Don Ameche!) killed her mother Jessica (Zsa Zsa Gabor!). After three years in a convent, she’s reunited with her father and his new wife, her former governess Francene (Martha Hyer, The House of 1,000 Dolls).

Soon, she’s being gaslit by visions of her mother set ablaze and pushed toward insanity, all so that the rest of the family can inherit mommy’s money.

Maxwell Reed is made up with scars to portray Anthony, the caretaker who tried to save Jessica. He was the first wife of Joan Collins in real life and she’d later accuse him of drugging her and taking advantage of it on their very first date.

Wendell Corey (The Astro-Zombies) also shows up as an attorney and Signe Hasso, who was once promoted as the next Garbo, plays a nun.

Hedy Lamarr was originally cast in ty Zsa Zsa Gabor’s role, but she was fired when she was arrested at a Los Angeles department store for shoplifting an $86 pair of slippers. Gene Tierney was originally going to play Francene Shelley but dropped out, as did Merle Oberon.

It was filmed in the legendary Greystone Mansion, which has been host to plenty of films, such as Batman and RobinThe Big LebowskiDeath Becomes HerFlowers in the Attic, Phantom of the Paradise and The Witches of Eastwick. The home was unfurnished, but Gordon was able to get all of the furnishings from newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst’s New York City apartment to fill it.

This is an interesting little TV movie, with no real people to root for, but plenty of great fashions and colors. It’s almost like a little American giallo, except you know, Burt I. Gordon is no Mario Bava. That said, it’s a fun little escape.

You can watch the whole thing on YouTube.

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