What's the Matter with Helen? is schlock, but it's good schlock. Coming near the tail-end of the "grand old dame" ghoulfest that began with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Helen can't compare to that particular twisted masterpiece of the macabre, but it's dandy fun -- the kind of movie that popcorn and rainy nights were made for. Helen is ridiculous, of course, but director Curtis Harrington realizes this, and so he plays it for big effects. He's unashamed to bring out manipulative tricks that everyone has seen before, but he likes them so much that most viewers will too, even if they groan afterward. Harrington probably should have let Debbie Reynolds in on the joke, for she plays her scenes entirely too seriously -- something that is not a problem with co-star Shelley Winters. The supporting cast is fine, with Agnes Moorehead a tremendous amount of fun, and Harrington also has a good time playing around with period touches. The result is far from a great movie, but still an enjoyable mixture of chills and laughs, even if some of the laughs are more at the film than with it.
by Craig Butler review