The Nanny (1965) 3/5
After his little sister drowns in a bathtub, young Joey (William Dix) is blamed for her death and sent away to a special school to be treated by psychologists. His mother, Virginia (Wendy Craig), suffers a breakdown, and, dismissed by her distant husband, becomes more dependent than ever on their nanny, played by the great Bette Davis.
The film begins with Joey due to return to the family home, (after the medical expert privately admits to failing him), and straight away he exhibits hostility towards the nanny.
Soon his mother is taken ill after being poisoned, with both sides blaming each other.
Belligerent and unlikeable, Dix’s portrayal helps to instil in us a prejudice towards his character, but in a series of flashbacks we learn that it is in fact Davis’ character who is the unstable one, and it was she who unwittingly caused the death of the young girl and blamed it on Joey.
Joey’s aunt, staying in Virginia’s absence (the father is away on business), suffers from a medical condition, and collapses after confronting the nanny, dying when the nanny withholds her medication.
There follows a creepy scene where Davis enters the boy’s bedroom, clutching a pillow, intent on smothering the lad. In his attempt to escape he is knocked unconscious, and in a horrifying moment she puts him face down in a filled bathtub to drown him. However, her murderous state of mind is broken when she sees his dead sister in his place, and, filled with remorse, sweeps him back up again.
The film ends with a doctor telling Virginia that the nanny is a sick woman who needs help, and Joey is suddenly transformed into a little angel promising the earth to his mother.
Personally, I have my doubts.
Spare a thought for poor producer Jimmy Sangster: not only did he have to bow to pressure from 20th Century Fox to tag a happy ending onto the film after principal photography was finished, he also had to fight off the ageing Bette Davis’ attempts to seduce him. More scary than any Hammer film.
I think I read somewhere that, when Davis returned to do another Hammer movie, The Anniversary, Sangster’s wife packed her things and went on a holiday abroad, vowing not to return until his work with Davis was at an end.
He has my sympathies-the same thing happened with me and Jennifer Aniston.