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
A deranged widow kidnaps a young orphan girl who bears a striking resemblance to her dead daughter,
This is a well-acted, but thinly plotted addition to the BABY JANE/CHARLOTTE cycle, with Shelley Winters giving an appropriately over-the-top performance as the lonely, crazed woman who lures unsuspecting young children into her creepy old house. Made by horror practitioner Curtis Harrington in England after directing Winters earlier that year in the superb Gothic thriller WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, this film is a bit of a letdown in comparison. However, as is usually the case with Harrington, he milks the threadbare material for all it's worth and manages to create a rich, striking, really quite memorable picture that almost ranks as his best ever. Desmond Dickinson's beautiful cinematography is also a nice touch. The film is intended to be a travesty of sorts of the gruesome HANSEL AND GRETEL tale. Though Shelley's campy performance in the title role is the film's main attraction, the movie boasts an equally impressive supporting cast that includes Ralph Richardson as a phony psychic, Hugh Griffith as an eccentric butcher, and Mark Lester and Chloe Franks as the terrorized young children.
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