Who Slew Auntie Roo?

Who Slew Auntie Roo? is about an aging woman - a former magician's assistant - who lives in a lustrous mansion all by her lonesome. Her daughter died years ago, her servants are angling to blackmail her and the only people who seem to care about her at all would never grace her doorstep were it not for her oppressive solitude. Every year, she invites orphans from a nearby orphanage to spend Christmas in her burnished safehold. Isn't that nice? I suppose it would be alright if she didn't kidnap a little girl that reminded her of her dead daughter. Speaking of the dead daughter, Auntie Roo keeps her decomposing cadaver in a crib upstairs. Hey, who am I to judge how she works through her grieving pains?

Shelley Winters plays the slain Roo. She portrays her character with both subtlety and a tincture of camp. I'm not sure how she managed to pull that off. Mark Lester and Chloe Franks give focused performances as the children in peril. I love how the script explores their complex, yet touching relationship as brother and sister. The story is a parable than runs parallel with "Hansel and Gretel." While the concept of weaving fairy tales into horror films is hardly groundbreaking (and almost inevitable), the way that director Curtis Harrington uses a beloved tale of a hungry witch as the backdrop for his ominous pot-boiler is nothing short of dexterous.

If you faithfully follow Random Reviews, you'll recognize the name of this production's bellwether. Curtis Harrington stood at the stern of the sunken ship that is Queen of Blood. God, I put way too much effort into that sentence. I figured that I had seen one of his worst films, and I was right. Who Slew Auntie Roo? is a taut, engrossing thriller that combines the twisted psychology of Psycho with the twisted psychology of Shelley Winters. It was released by MGM under their Midnite Movies banner on a two-sided disc that also features What's the Matter With Helen?. Note to MGM...bring back the Midnite Movies line!

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