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Picture Mommy Dead (Movie 1966): Notable Cheesy Schlocker

Picture Mommy Dead Don Ameche Susan GordonPicture Mommy Dead with Don Ameche and Susan Gordon: Of note, Zsa Zsa Gabor was cast as the dead mommy instead of original choice Gene Tierney (Laura, Leave Her to Heaven) and the originally hired Hedy Lamarr (Samson and Delilah).
  • Picture Mommy Dead (movie 1966) review: Made with schlocker fanatics in mind, Bert I. Gordon’s psychobabbling thriller – costarring daughter Susan Gordon in her final big-screen role – is notable for its veteran cast (Don Ameche, Martha Hyer, Wendell Corey, Signe Hasso, Anna Lee).

Picture Mommy Dead (movie 1966) review: Cheesy 1960s schlock peppered with a capable cast of veterans

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Directed and produced by Bert I. Gordon (The Amazing Colossal Man) and written by Robert Sherman (whose only other movie writing credit is the WWII drama Too Late the Hero), the 1966 shlocker Picture Mommy Dead starts out promisingly.

An unstable girl, Susan Shelley (Susan Gordon, daughter of director/producer Bert I.), is released to her father, Edward (former 20th Century Fox star Don Ameche) after spending time in a convent-cum-mental hospital, recovering from some kind of emotional illness.

The girl is then taken to the family mansion, where her mother, Jessica Flagmore Shelley (Zsa Zsa Gabor, replacing Hedy Lamarr), was burned to death.

That’s when the psychobabble begins.

Disappointing movie, intriguing cast

Yet as disappointing as Picture Mommy Dead is, its veteran cast is undeniably intriguing.

Don Ameche, whose credits include Henry King’s In Old Chicago and Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait, gives a competent performance as the girl’s sympathetic father, while Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee Martha Hyer (Some Came Running, 1958) plays the wicked stepmother, lusting after the girl’s inheritance.

Swedish-born actress Signe Hasso (also seen in Heaven Can Wait, plus A Double Life) is the caustic nun who imparts ominous advice and criticism when she releases Susan to her family.

Wendell Corey (Harriet Craig, Rear Window), for his part, attacks his role as the gravely-voiced lawyer as if he should be twirling a mustache and tying someone to the railroad tracks.

Best remembered for her supporting roles in John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley and the soap General Hospital, Anna Lee has a brief turn as a snooty society dame.

“And Zsa Zsa Gabor as…”

Lastly, there’s Zsa Zsa Gabor – so special she is billed separately in the ads (“And Zsa Zsa Gabor as Jessica”). This, of course, usually indicates that the part is small and the performer is given very little to do; Gabor’s role in Picture Mommy Dead is no exception to that rule.

Here’s where I add that former MGM star Hedy Lamarr – best known for the Paramount blockbuster Samson and Delilah – had been signed for the role, but, however unfairly, she was too busy getting arrested for shoplifting and had to drop out. (In all fairness, Lamarr is supposed to have been suffering from exhaustion.)

I must also add that they did good work fixing up Martha Hyer in a bleached-blond 1960s hairdo to resemble Gabor’s. It was a perfect touch.

Shrill teen, chatty mom

Unfortunately, at the very center of Picture Mommy Dead is Susan Gordon, who gives a shrill portrayal of the mentally tortured teen, crying and screaming and whining from beginning to end. Too much footage is wasted on close-ups of her hammy mugging.

Now I must admit that even though one can easily figure out the ending before it happens, I was surprised by the peculiar incestuous twist.

Summing it up: So what if Picture Mommy Dead is a cheap, corny carnival of camp, resembling a TV movie?

After all, where else can you see Zsa Zsa Gabor being strangled just so she’ll finally shut up?

Picture Mommy Dead (movie 1966) cast & crew

Director: Bert I. Gordon.

Screenplay: Robert Sherman.

Cast: Don Ameche, Martha Hyer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Susan Gordon, Wendell Corey, Signe Hasso, Maxwell Reed, Anna Lee.

Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks.

Film Editing: John A. Bushelman.

Music: Robert Drasnin.

Art Direction: Bruce Bushman & Hal Pereira.

Producer: Bert I. Gordon.

Production Companies: Berkeley Productions.

Distributor: Embassy Pictures.

Running Time: 82 min.

Country: United States.

Picture Mommy Dead (Movie 1966): Notable Cheesy Schlocker” review text © Danny Fortune; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes © Alt Film Guide.

Picture Mommy Dead (Movie 1966): Notable Cheesy Schlocker” notes

Picture Mommy Dead movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog website.

Don Ameche and Susan Gordon Picture Mommy Dead movie image: Embassy Pictures.

Picture Mommy Dead (Movie 1966): Notable Cheesy Schlocker” last updated in April 2023.

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Joseph Kearny -

Don Ameche is actually dreadful in this film; he seems painfully distracted and uncomfortable.
It has the feel of a made for TV movie.

Felicia -

remember watching this with my friends late at night. I love this movie so much though it never really was horror to me it was more of a psychological murder mystery. If you liked this movie you should really check out the Korean move “A Tale of Two Sisters”

mommy help -

I have always loved that movie I cant believe someone else likes that movie to haha


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