'Picture Mommy Dead': Don Ameche & Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1960s Schlocker

Picture Mommy Dead Zsa Zsa Gabor
Picture Mommy Dead with Zsa Zsa Gabor.

The 1960s shlocker Picture Mommy Dead starts out promisingly.

An unstable girl is released to her father after spending time in a convent-cum-mental hospital, recovering from some kind of emotional illness. The girl is taken to the family mansion where her mother was burned to death. The psychobabble begins.

Yet, as disappointing as it is at times, the cast of Picture Mommy Dead is quite intriguing.

Fox veteran Don Ameche, for one, gives a competent performance as the girl's sympathetic father, while Academy Award-nominee Martha Hyer (for Some Came Running back in 1958) is the wicked stepmother, lusting after the girl's inheritance.

Former Paramount second lead Wendell Corey attacks his role as the gravely-voiced lawyer as if he should be twirling a mustache and tying someone to the railroad tracks. Another 1940s veteran, Signe Hasso, is the caustic nun who imparts ominous advice and criticism when she releases the daughter to her family. Anna Lee, best known for her supporting roles in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley and in the soap General Hospital, has a brief turn as a snooty society dame.

Also in the cast is none other than Zsa Zsa Gabor – so special she is billed separately in the ads (“And Zsa Zsa Gabor as Jessica”). This usually indicates that the part is small and the actor is given very little to do; Gabor's role in Picture Mommy Dead – she's the “Mommy” of the title – was no exception to that rule. (News stories at the time claimed that Hedy Lamarr had been signed for the role, but she was too busy getting arrested for shoplifting and had to pass. Also, I must add that I liked the way they fixed up Martha Hyer in a bleached-blond '60s hairdo to resemble Gabor's. It was a perfect touch.)

Unfortunately, however, the film's center-of-attention is Susan Gordon, the real-life daughter of producer-director Bert I. Gordon. The young Gordon gives a shrill interpretation of a mentally tortured teen, crying and screaming and whining from beginning to end. Too much footage is wasted on close-ups of her hammy, mugging face.

Although I figured out the ending before it happened, I was surprised by the peculiar incestuous twist. So what if this was a cheap, corny carnival of camp, reminding me of a TV Movie? I mean, where else can you see Zsa Zsa Gabor being strangled just so she'll shut up?

© Danny Fortune

Picture Mommy Dead (1966). Dir.: Bert I. Gordon. Scr.: Robert Sherman. Cast: Susan Gordon, Don Ameche, Martha Hyer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Wendell Corey, Signe Hasso, Maxwell Reed, Anna Lee.

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3 Comments to 'Picture Mommy Dead': Don Ameche & Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1960s Schlocker

  1. 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.

  2. 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”

  3. mommy help

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