Tue. May 28th, 2024

Everybody remembers 1962’s What Ever Occurred to Child Jane? as a camp traditional, however that film—which starred Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and kick-started the “psycho-biddy” horror subgenre—was additionally nominated for 5 Oscars. In 1972, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? didn’t rake in the identical acclaim, nevertheless it’s almost as ghoulishly entertaining, elevated by Shelley Winters’ daffy efficiency.

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Launched the identical 12 months as one other notable later-career Winters flip (pro-tip: save The Poseidon Journey in your New 12 months’s Eve occasion), Auntie Roo was really the second psycho-biddy film Winters made with director Curtis Harrington; they’d teamed up on What’s the Matter With Helen? the 12 months prior. That movie gave Winters a co-star on equal footing in Debbie Reynolds, however Auntie Roo is the Winters present by means of and thru. The 2-time Oscar winner has no hassle commanding the highlight, figuring out when to chomp the surroundings but in addition discovering the vulnerability in her outsized character.

Auntie Roo’s backstory alone could be an excessive amount of for some actors to believably pull off, however Winters has no drawback making you consider she’s a wealthy American—as soon as a glamorous theater star, nonetheless keen on robes and tiaras—residing alone in a mansion within the English countryside, circa the Nineteen Twenties, who opens her house yearly to native orphans for a Christmas occasion. Different pertinent particulars: she had a younger daughter who died in a tragic accident some years prior, which she blames herself for, and her late husband was a well-known magician (we don’t study rather more about him, which looks like an avenue that would have been additional explored… although we do get to see the room of spooky props he left behind). Additionally, she’s put lots of religion right into a shifty medium who comes over to conduct pretend séances and gather a hefty charge—which he secretly splits with the servants, together with a butler who hates his job virtually as a lot as he hates Auntie Roo.

Screenshot: American Worldwide Footage

It’s a lot, however Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? has extra so as to add to its kitschy Gothic melodrama scene-setting as soon as the youngsters arrive, together with siblings who crash the occasion as a result of the orphanage has deemed them not well-behaved sufficient for the outing. Christopher (Mark Lester, a well-recognized little one star after taking part in the title character in 1968’s Oliver!) and Katy (Chloe Franks) quickly ingratiate themselves with their hostess, and are allowed to indulge within the Christmas Eve-into-Christmas Day in a single day bacchanal of meals, presents, and watching Auntie Roo carry out ditties from her stage routine. Christopher particularly is obsessive about fairy tales, particularly “Hansel and Gretel,” and the movie is unsubtle about underlining the parallels, together with the gingerbread element on Auntie Roo’s house, her obsession with “fattening up” the youngsters, and having Christopher each recite the story to assist Katy get to sleep and run it by means of his thoughts in voice-over at opportune moments. Katy, in the meantime, bears a hanging resemblance to Auntie Roo’s much-mourned little woman.

We all know one thing’s off with Auntie Roo from the movie’s opening scene, which reveals us—with a shrieking help from the soundtrack, so we all know how terrible it’s—that she’s eliminated her daughter’s disintegrating corpse from her coffin in order that she will sing it nightly lullabies. And there’s no denying Auntie Roo makes some selections because the plot progresses that talk to her personal disintegrating psychological state. However there’s additionally an oddly unsympathetic high quality to Christopher and Katy; we don’t study something about their lives earlier than the orphanage, however we see that Christopher has scrappy street-smarts that may’t fairly overcome his fantastical perception that Auntie Roo is actually the witch from “Hansel and Gretel,” and Katy has clearly discovered that whining and pouting are the quickest methods to get what she needs. That’s to not say you’ll want sick upon these kiddos, precisely—nevertheless it would possibly make you surprise if Auntie Roo’s inevitable punishment (the fairy-tale factor is a useless giveaway as to her destiny… as is the film’s personal title) feels overly harsh for her crimes.

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? is streaming free with adverts on Pluto TV.


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