BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971)

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Whoever Slew Auntie Roo - Blu-ray Review

4 beersShelley Winters unhinged is some scary-ass shit.  And that’s a fact. 

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? presents the actress as a civilized AND extremely wicked woman who longs to be reunited with her dearly departed daughter.  Now before you get all sentimental (because, you know, what mother wouldn’t want to be reunited with their a child who unexpectedly passes away), you must know that the character Winters plays, Rosie Forrest, keeps her child’s bleached remains upstairs in a locked attic.  She sings to it and tucks it in bed every single night.

Directed by Curtis Harrington, one of the frontrunners of the queer-themed independent film movement, this British horror film remains largely unknown.  It is essentially a re-imagining of the Hansel & Gretel fairy tale as one seemingly sweet widow annually invites the children of a local orphanage for an overnight stay on Christmas Eve.  The kids look forward to it and the staff, who have been coming to her house for years, never think twice about her intentions.  They, in fact, feel sorry for Mrs. Forrest who lost her little girl in a stairway accident. 

Little do they know that Mrs. Forrest has not been right in the head since the accidental death of her daughter.  With her mummified child still in the attic and a phony psychic (played by Ralph Richardson) coming over to her mansion on a weekly basis in order to make contact with the other side (all arranged and orchestrated by her staff who eventually blackmail her), Mrs. Forrest is primed for a very public meltdown.  Enter orphans Christopher and Katy Coombs.  Played by Oliver’s Mark Lester and The House that Dripped Blood’s Chloe Franks, this brother and sister team will soon find themselves at the center of this spooky little thriller.

Harrington makes great use of space in the film.  It’s a lavish production that seemingly defies its low budget.  Rosie’s mansion is a dream home for any child, orphaned or not, and his eye for detail opens it up to possibility.  Every nook and cranny is explored as both Christopher and Katy wind up with time on their hands thanks to their extended stay in the home.  They find all sorts of magical an creepy items on display.  All of this occurring while the staff realizes that Mrs. Forrest wants to replace her dead child with Katy. 

In one key sequence, the first in which Christopher realizes all is not well with Mrs. Forrest, the audience rides a dumbbell waiter up the attic with him to bear witness to the oddity occurring up there.  She’s got her mummified child in the bed and she’s singing to it.  It is a frightening sequence that – edited with shots of Winters becoming aware of someone in the wall – ends with a chase back the bedroom where the Christopher just barely gets back in bed while she – overweight and out of breath – can only suspect him of spying on her. 

Released along side What’s the Matter with Helen in 1971 by American International Pictures, Harrington’s film is a haunting reminder of just how talented and terrifying Shelley Winters was.  Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? is now available on blu-ray.

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing images and behavior.
Runtime:
91 mins
Director
: Curtis Harrington
Writer:
David D. Osborn, Robert Blees
Cast:
Shelley Winters, Mark Lester, Chloe Franks
Genre
: Horror | Thriller
Tagline:
Say goodnight to Auntie Roo, kiddies. It's dead time!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I told you, she's a witch!"
Distributor:
CBS
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 15, 1972
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 16, 2016
Synopsis: A demented widow lures unsuspecting children into her mansion in a bizarre "Hansel and Gretel" twist.

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 16, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD-25)
Region Encoding: A

Released by Kino Lorber, Harrington’s obsession with film titles ending in question marks continues.  The 1080p transfer, presented in a 1.84:1 aspect ratio, is a detail-rich experience.  The colors are bold and the backgrounds are filled with nice touches.  Black levels are solid and shadows, while not deep, are expressive enough.  For a low-budget film from the early part of the 1970s, the image – and its remastering – is a good experience as dirt and debris and random scratches are at a very low level.  The sound, presented here in a fairly underwhelming 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix , is just okay.  Maybe a little too tinny for its own good.  

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Recorded by film historian David Del Valle and film scholar Nathaniel Bell is also a solid affair, offering a good bit of information about the film and its director.

Special Features:

  • Theatrical Trailer

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