Shelley Winters in Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

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.

Launched the identical 12 months as one other notable later-career Winters flip (pro-tip: save The Poseidon Adventure in your New Yr’s Eve social gathering), 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 and thru. The 2-time Oscar winner has no hassle commanding the highlight, understanding when to chomp the surroundings but additionally discovering the vulnerability in her outsized character.

Auntie Roo’s backstory alone can be an excessive amount of for some actors to believably pull off, however Winters has no downside making you imagine she’s a wealthy American—as soon as a glamorous theater star, nonetheless keen on robes and tiaras—dwelling alone in a mansion within the English countryside, circa the Nineteen Twenties, who opens her dwelling annually to native orphans for a Christmas social gathering. 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 far more about him, which looks like an avenue that might have been additional explored… although we do get to see the room of spooky props he left behind). Additionally, she’s put a variety of religion right into a shifty medium who comes over to conduct faux séances and acquire a hefty price—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 social gathering as a result of the orphanage has deemed them not well-behaved sufficient for the outing. Christopher (Mark Lester, a well-known little one star after enjoying 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 dwelling, her obsession with “fattening up” the kids, and having Christopher each recite the story to assist Katy get to sleep and run it by his thoughts in voice-over at opportune moments. Katy, in the meantime, bears a hanging resemblance to Auntie Roo’s much-mourned little lady.

We all know one thing’s off with Auntie Roo from the movie’s opening scene, which exhibits 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 decisions 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 ailing upon these kiddos, precisely—nevertheless it would possibly make you surprise if Auntie Roo’s inevitable punishment (the fairy-tale factor is a lifeless 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 advertisements on Pluto TV.

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