Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? is a 1971 British-American horror film directed by Curtis Harrington (Night Tide) and starring Ralph Richardson (Tales from the Crypt), Shelley Winters (Tentacles) and Mark Lester. Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson and Jimmy Sangster (uncredited). Executive produced by Louis M. Heyward.
Like better-known films such as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, this is one of the many films in the Grande Dame Guignol (aka ‘hag horror’ or ‘psycho biddy’) genre and is loosely based on the tale of Hansel and Gretel.
Jimmy Sangster (billed as James Sangster), Robert Blees and David D. Osborn co-wrote the screenplay. Other titles that have been used for the film are Gingerbread House (screenplay working title) and simply Who Slew Auntie Roo? (US poster title), while the film tagline was “The hand that rocks the cradle has no flesh on it!”
The working title was changed because of the appearance of the Neil Simon play The Gingerbread Lady and fears of a lawsuit over titular similarity, and the alteration of “Who” to “Whoever” after the poster was drawn up was insisted upon by Harrington. Posters exist with the full-length title, and one of those appears on the DVD cover.
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Optional English Subtitles
Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and Film Scholar Nathaniel Bell
“The overblown theatrics of Shelley Winters’ Auntie Roo often border on camp, although they are fitting enough for her character’s delirious state. Director Curtis Harrington instills a playful sense of mystery and suspense that is heightened by Kenneth V. Jones’ mischievous score. The subtle scares and overriding feelings of child-like fantasy are served up with a healthy side of ham by Ms Winters.” I Like Horror Movies
“The scare scenes would be more effective if they didn’t seem so arbitrary, and the last third of the movie fails to build up the necessary tension or suspense. As it is, what I most enjoy in the movie is seeing some familiar faces such as Ralph Richardson, Hugh Griffith and Lionel Jeffries, all who are quite entertaining in their roles and severely underused. It’s a curiosity, but little more.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
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Cast and characters:
Shelley Winters … Mrs Forrest
Mark Lester … Christopher Coombs
Chloe Franks … Katy Coombs
Ralph Richardson … Mr Benton
Lionel Jeffries … Inspector Ralph Willoughby
Hugh Griffith … Mr Harrison
Rosalie Crutchley … Miss Henley
Pat Heywood … Doctor Mason
Judy Cornwell … Clarine
Michael Gothard … Albie
Jackie Cowper … Angela Barnes (as Jacqueline Cowper)
Richard Beaumont … Peter Brookshire
Charlotte Sayce … Katharine Forrest
Marianne Stone … Miss Wilcox
Dorian Healy … Reggie Pike (uncredited)
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England (studio)
Production began on 26th April 1971.
1 hour 31 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1