Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

Following the success of BETTE DAVIS and JOAN CRAWFORD in WHATVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, Hollywood developed a formula for dealing with A-List actresses of a certain age. Take the over-the-hill screen siren, slap her into a harebrained thriller, and watch the camp meter explode. Such is the case with SHELLEY WINTERS over-the-top turn as widow Rosie Forest in 1971’s WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? After her only daughter Katherine dies in one of those unfortunate, “Mommy, watch me slide down the banister” mishaps, the insanely wealthy Rosie spends her days caring for the child’s mummified remains that she keeps stashed in a hidden nursery, and trying to make contact with the dead girl via séances facilitated by an obviously fake medium. Once a year, Rosie, aka Auntie Roo, opens her big heart and expansive manor to select children from the local orphanage at Christmas time. When the uninvited brother-and-sister tag team of Katy and Christopher crash the holiday festivities, Rosie realizes the striking resemblance between Katy and her dead daughter, and does what any grieving mother would do; she kidnaps the young girl and locks her away in the hidden nursery. After the rest of the children are carted back to the orphanage, Christopher hangs back and wages a one-boy battle against the unhinged Auntie Roo in order to free his sister. The film makes no secret that it is a retelling of Hansel & Gretel, Christopher articulates this one too many times in various voiceovers, and it makes the obligatory nod to the Wicked Witch of THE WIZARD OF OZ with Auntie Roo’s hourglass in the kitchen. WINTERS never really comes across as a witch, but more of a bat-shit insane mother, and the analogy falls somewhat flat. 


  • Auntie Roo performs a soft-shoe routine for the orphans on Christmas Eve, and SHELLEY shows off some ample inner-thigh
  • WINTERS pre-dates JACK NICHOLSON‘s classic “Here’s Johnny” move in THE SHINING by nine years when she hacks her way through the pantry door with a meat clever, followed by a close-up of her face in said shattered door
  • The mummified remains of the daughter crumbling in Auntie Roo’s gloved hands
  • Auntie Roo devours an apple
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
14 years ago

I love this movie. Never saw it as a kid, but got it a few years back and made an oath with myself that I would treat it like a “Christmas Classic” from now on (since the movie takes place at Christmas time). Shelley Winters is one of those hammy women who can make an okay movie great (had this starred anyone else aside from Bette Davis or Joan Crawford I probably wouldn’t like it so much!) and I was very happy to see Mark Lester (Oliver Twist from OLIVER!) as the Orphan hero.

Joey Deadcat
Joey Deadcat
14 years ago

Memories of my pre-teen years watching this on Chiller Theatre late Saturday nights…

Ironically, Mark Lester has been good friends with real-life Auntie Roo, Michael Jackson.