On the celebration of the anniversary of Mrs. Taggart, her three dominated sons come to her house for the party. Terry, Henry and Tom Taggart work in construction, in a business that belonged to their father and is presently managed by their manipulative mother. Tom brings his pregnant fiancée Shirley Blair to tell his mother that they will marry each other; Terry brings his wife Karen Taggart and they secretly intend to emigrate to Canada; and Henry is gay and loves to wear women’s underwear. During the night, the mean Mrs. Taggart uses the most despicable means and tricks to get rid off Shirley and Terry and keep her sons close to her.
“My dear, would you mind sitting somewhere else? Body odor offends me.”
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.