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directed by Robert Aldrich
USA 1968

Film star Lylah Clare is dead, but her legend lives on. Movie-producer Barney Sheean (Ernest Borgnine) hires Elsa Brinkmann (Kim Novak), the living image of the late Lylah, to star in a film based on Ms. Clare's life. Barney hires director Lewis Zarkan (Peter Finch), Lylah's former husband, to transform the talentless Elsa into a facsimile of the deceased screen queen. Elsa not only learns to imitate Lylah but, at crucial junctures, becomes the dead woman. While restaging the accident that killed Lylah, the obsessed Zarkan deliberately drives Elsa to her doom -- and in so doing reveals his complicity in the death of his wife. The film ends with Lylah's onetime housekeeper (Rosella Falk), gun in hand, lying in wait for Zarkan to return home while her TV blasts forth a grotesque (and possibly symbolic) dog-food commercial. A trash masterpiece, Legend of Lylah Claire works so hard at vilifying the Old Hollywood (there's even a vicious Hedda Hopper caricature) that it's a wonder the actors could keep a straight face. The film was based on a 1962 Dupont Show of the Week TV drama co-written by Wild in the Streets creator Robert Thom.


No one can touch Robert Aldrich when it comes to holding a mirror up to the self-absorbed self-deception of Hollywood. The director of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Big Knife turns the lens again to Tinseltown with this deliciously overheated mystery-melodrama. Kim Novak portrays an unknown chosen to star in a biopic of film goddess Lylah Clare, who died under mysterious circumstances on her wedding night. Two Best Actor Academy Award(r) winners,* Peter Finch as Lylah's obsessed widower and Ernest Borgnine as a loutish mogul, help stir a heady plot that reveals secrets, compulsions, perversions and murder as the na´ve young actress becomes consumed by the identity of the dead star.


Hollywood picking its scabs is always a riveting sight, and never more enjoyably so than in Aldrich's supremely vulgar movie, which feeds gluttonously off movie myth and experience to create a vigorously animated Hollywood Babylon where dead stars talk and everyone's laundry is filthy. Kim Novak stars as the moulded reincarnation of Lylah Clare, whose stellar career ended in mysterious death on the night of her wedding to director Lewis Zarkan (Finch), now attempting a semi-confessional biopic on the subject, which naturally involves an outrageous gallery of grotesques and innocents in its revelatory course from concept to screen. Necrophilia, cancer, cripples, French critics, lesbianism, ignorant producers, nepotism, abortion, 'film-artists', Italian studs and TV are the tasty elements Aldrich ghoulishly (and a little masochistically) juggles into a film-fan's delight, a side-splitting charade of satire, sarcasm and sheer perverse affection.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


Theatrical Premiere: August 21st, 1968


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DVD Review: Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 2:09:48

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.37 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Dolby Digital 1.0 (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Trailer (2:56)

DVD Release Date: November 10th, 2011
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Chapters 10





The Legend of Lylah Clare is an odd-ball film that doesn't come-together as one might anticipate. It has so many positives from Aldrich's ability to 'haunt' you and Kim Novak's always present magnetism. I was enthralled although recognize it is not any of the filmmakers or cast's best work. I was, nonetheless, drawn to it.

It's unusually a dual-layered Warner MoD (Made-on-Demand) disc - which we don't see that often - and progressive in the slightly bastardized 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is a shade inconsistent and the 'dream' sequences are quite weak-looking (part of the original production). Overall the marginally higher bitrate helps the visuals and there is decent detail with only minor speckles throughout. 

The mono sound is decent supporting the score by Frank De Vol (The Dirty Dozen, Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Knife (1955), What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, McLintock). It runs mysteriously beside the film's ever present dark aura. There are no subtitles offered here and no supplements at all aside from a beat-up, letterboxed, trailer.

Easily enough to warrant a purchaser for fans of Aldrich or Novak. It stands out for it's... intentional trashy qualities (if you don't embrace that - The Legend of Lylah Clare will seem very poor). By no means the director's best and he may have wished to forget its existence. Novak is compelling in her fragility (her last starring role in an American-made feature film.) The bizarre characteristics of the film become, oddly, attractive. NOTE: listed among the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.  

  - Gary Tooze



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