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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
I had the fortunate circumstance to see this double-billed as a very young child with Bava'a Baron Blood. Some of the scenes remained in my mind - particularly the creepy figure of Shelley Winters. I recently set out to see the film again some 30 years later. I remembered more than I thought I had, and the film came back to me in large part. This is not a bad film nor a good film. As another reviewer noted, it is a pleasant, harmless time-waster - for those of us who enjoy "wasting" time on such things. Mark Lester and Chloe Franks play two orphans at an orphanage. Franks has an uncanny resemblance to the dead daughter of the orphanage's greatest patroness and benefactress, Shelley Winters. Winters is so good to the kiddies that every year she invites them to her sumptuous home at Christmas for yuletide fun. She has virtually no interest in Lester but soon has the keenest of hearts for the young Franks as her dead daughter's look-a-like. Well, Lester is a growing teen rebelling, Winters decays into some form of madness, a cast of stalwart British character actors such as Sir Ralph Richardson, Hugh Griffith, and Lionel Jeffries ably aid the story, and that story degenerates/diffuses into some sinister tale not unlike Hansel and Gretel. Well, the movie has a poor story overall - but Winter's fine performance albeit over-the-top to be sure does add emotional depth to it. Director Curtis Harrington is very able behind the camera if not dazzling.
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