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This is a retelling of the old tale of Hansel and Gretel, but set in England in the 1920s. To the children and staff at the orphanage, Auntie Roo is a kindly American widow who gives them a lavish Christmas party each year in her mansion, Forrest Grange. In reality, she is a severely disturbed woman, who keeps the mummified remains of her little daughter in a nursery in the attic. One Christmas, her eye falls upon a little girl who reminds her of her daughter and she imprisons her in her attic. Nobody believes her brother, Christopher, when he tells them what has happened, so he goes to rescue her. Written by
Shelley Winters is fantastic in this Great British Classic!
Probably Shelley Winters' greatest Movie - though I suspect many would disagree.
Many viewers delight in name-calling 'Aunt Roo' as 'nuts' 'crazy' 'evil' etc., but many fail to see the sad and pathetic side to this unfortunate character.
Aunt Roo (played marvellously by the wonderful Shelley Winters) is clearly traumatised by the tragic death of her only child. Left widowed in an isolated mansion to live all by herself, she is taken advantage of, and her 'damaged' mind from the trauma of her loss is cruelly and sadistically abused by her staff who pretend to be her dead daughter come back during false seances.
Many viewers ignore her staff who bleed her white. Despite showing loads of kindnesses to orphaned children, she is further still abused by two of the most ungrateful among them. Consequently, 'Aunt Roo' transforms from just being traumatised to mentally disturbed, and the tragic end to the movie ensues.
I guess this story just goes to prove how cruel society and people can be to traumatised people without trying to understand them, just because they are adults. If the roles of this film were reversed, everyone's sympathy would still lie with the children...
Shelley Winters' performance still brings tears to my eyes when she cries and yearns for her dead child, only to find out she's been made a fool of - enough to drive anyone insane!
A fabulous Movie, and a fabulous story. It's often likened to Hansel And Gretel, but I think it's far more complicated than that - poor 'Aunt Roo'!
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