Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein | under the rubble | 09/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shelly Winters is great at playing unhinged characters. In WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, she teams up with Debbie Reynolds in a tale about two mothers of convicted killers who move to california in order to escape the publicity and threats against them. Helen (Winters) begins to slowly unravel, revealing the true psychotic within. Haunted by the death of her husband, she becomes increasingly dangerous to herself and others, especially Adelle (Reynolds), who may or may not survive. There are some snappy dance routines (highlighting Debbie Reynolds' talent and cuteness) scattered throughout. Watch for Dennis Weaver (Duel) as Adelle's love interest.-WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?- has Shelly Winters as Roo, the rich widow of a famous magician. She lost her daughter Katherine in an accident and has trusted in a phony medium (Ralph Richardson) for years, paying him a small fortune so he can "contact" Katherine. Well, it's all a big scam of course, helping to push Roo over the edge. Some children from a local orphanage visit "Auntie Roo" every christmas. This year, one of the little girls resembles Roo's daughter, causing the bats in her belfry to really start a flappin'! She kidnaps the girl and her brother Christopher (Mark "Oliver" Lester), keeping them locked in her secret attic (did I mention that she keeps her mummified daughter up there too?). The rest is cat and mouse as the children try to escape Roo's insanity. In the kids' minds, they are living out "Hansel and Gretel", with Roo as the perfectly wicked witch. If you enjoy movies where Shelly Winters goes crazy, then this double feature can't be beat! Highly recommended..."
Camp classics, both of them
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 07/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Aaah, you just gotta love these MGM double feature discs. Regarding their DVD releases, MGM always leaves out a whole lot in terms of special features. All you usually get is a trailer and maybe a widescreen transfer, but these amazing double dipper discs resurrect films you never thought would see the light of day. "What's the Matter with Helen?" and "Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?" are excellent examples of two films that taken on their own would probably never show up on DVD. Or if they did, some seedy outfit looking to make a quick buck on a grainy, cropped release would peddle them. Yet here they are with gloriously clean transfers in all their wacky, over the top splendor. I can't say I've ever been a Shelley Winters fan, excepting her outrageously campy performance in "The Poseidon Adventure," but I must say I have a newfound respect for the aging thespian after watching these two knee slappers. What can I say? I love schlocky cinema, and "What's the Matter with Helen?" and "Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?" are prime examples of films so slathered in cheese that your cholesterol level will skyrocket within minutes of popping the disc into your player.Of the two films, "What's the Matter with Helen" is by far the best. Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds play Helen Hill and Adelle Bruckner, two women who flee to California during the Depression to escape the media frenzy after their sons go to prison for murder. Fortunately, Helen knows how to play the piano and Adelle knows how to dance, so the two women open up a dance studio for the precocious offspring of Hollywood parents. Things start to go downhill when Helen begins breaking down psychologically because of her son's crimes. She worries that the threatening phone call the two women received back home, which served as one impetus to head west, is coming back to haunt the two. As Hill plumbs the depths of insanity, Adelle's fortunes are looking up. Her dance studio puts on a recital that is the talk of the town, and she's finally met a nice guy by the name of Lincoln Palmer (Dennis Weaver) who seems interested in a long-term relationship. Bruckner's success severely strains the already fragile bond between the two gals, leading to a truly memorable series of events culminating in a quite shocking-and endlessly humorous-conclusion. "What's the Matter with Helen?" gives you Shelley sticking her hand in a fan, lots of rabbits, Agnes Moorehead slumming as an Aimee Simple McPherson type preacher, and Reynolds hoofing it up in a series of tacky platinum blonde wigs."Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?" finds Shelley Winters hamming it up in a schlocky take on "Hansel and Gretel." The story unfolds in England during the 1920s, where an eccentric, wealthy old woman named Rosie Forrest (Winters) plays host to a select bunch of tots from the local orphanage during the Christmas holidays. A brother and sister, Christopher and Katy, who aren't invited to the shindig, trick their way into the house anyway at which point Forrest takes a real shine to Katy. Why? Turns out that Rosie's own daughter passed away in a tragic banister sliding accident years before. The old woman never recovered from the disaster, and spends most of her time attempting to contact her deceased child with the help of flaky spiritualist Mr. Benson (Ralph Richardson taking one on the chin for a paycheck) and her sinister butler. With the arrival of Katy, however, Rosie thinks she can return to the halcyon days of yesteryear by adopting the adorable tike. Christopher, sensing something horribly wrong with Forrest's disposition, throws a bunch of wrenches in the old woman's well-laid plans. Lot's of surprises in this story, as Winters eventually goes completely off her rocker when Katy and Christopher refuse to play ball.Perhaps the biggest surprise in "What's the Matter with Helen?" is the wonderful Debbie Reynolds. Not only does she tear up the dance floor in several memorable scenes (ahem), her platinum blonde look suits her well in a sort of sleazy yet incredibly attractive way. I'm not sure what the film was trying to say exactly, but Reynolds and Winters have good chemistry together onscreen. Another surprise is the somewhat authentic looking 1930's attire and scenery, surprising because low budget sludge like this usually doesn't pay much attention to props. As for "Whoever Slew Auntie Roo," Winters takes center stage and holds onto it with both meaty hands. Even as a laughed at the ridiculous scenarios unfolding on the television, I couldn't help but notice that I actually felt sorry for Shelley's character even as she engaged in odious activities. I've seen so many low budget films that can't achieve any sort of dimension to their characters that to actually see one that does is shocking. Further reflection after the viewing experience led me to conclude that all the credit should go to the acting chops of Shelley Winters. Sure, she hams it up, but that she can ham it up and still convey other emotions is quite an accomplishment.If you're worried about watching two films starring Shelley Winters, don't. To watch Shelley Winters here is to love Shelley Winters. Of course, if you don't like schlock you won't like anything about these two films no matter what I say. Again, kudos goes to MGM for releasing these two classics on one DVD with a great picture transfer. While neither film is particularly scary or graphically gory, they are entertaining in terms of hilarity and general kookiness. I am eternally grateful I stumbled over these two classics, and you might be too if you give them a chance. Enjoy!"
Curtis Harrington...both sides of the coin...same year(?)
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 08/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just got this DVD, having never seen "Helen". Well, aside from having Shelley Winters in common, both were directed by Curtis Harrington. It's a good lesson in what studio and budget can do for a film. "What's the Matter with Helen" is pure studio (United Artists) with high production values (Oscar nominated Costumes), true 30's period sets and a wonderful narrative written by Henry Farrell ("Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"). Shelley has never been better and Debbie Reynolds is absolutely marvelous, as the two play mothers of teen-age sons sent to jail and escape together to Hollywood. Debbie dances and Shelley plays piano; Debbie wants to be a Jean Harlow type, while Shelley slowly descends into her Bible study. I won't blab away any plot points, but there is a great cameo by Agnes Moorehead, and Dennis Weaver is quite fine as a rich "McCloud"-type. There is real suspense that kept me guessing, a few twists, which all add up to a great period piece that's loads of fun and craziness. There's also a wonderful performance by Michael MacLiammoir whose sinister presence adds to the suspense. "Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?" (released in America as "Who Slew Auntie Roo?"), on the other hand, was a quickie by Harrington, with lower production values and filmed in England. They were also capitalizing on young Mark Lester (from "Oliver!"). Shelley, in this one, overacts shamelessly, though with this type of film, it's appropriate. It's basically a re-telling of "Hansel and Gretel" with obvious modern twists. It's no less entertaining than "Helen", but as released by American-International, no other distributor would touch it. There are wonderful performances by the likes of Sir Ralph Richardson, Lionel Jeffries and Hugh Griffith, but it's super-campy (very "70's") and did well at the box-office. Shelley went on to receive the last of her many Oscar nominations the following year (1972) for her over-the-top hammy performance in "The Poseidon Adventure". Perhaps it was the Academy's way of rewarding her for the great performance in "Helen". In 1961, movies centering on evil old women seemed to thrive ("Baby Jane", "Strait Jacket", "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte", etc.), and, though "Helen" could stand on its own as classy entertainment, "Auntie Roo" kinda killed that genre. With its modest price and loads of the wonderful Shelley, this would be a welcome addition to your DVD library."
Nice double dose of Shelley...
Wil-n-Tally | Tallahassee, FL United States | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I LOVE Shelley Winters and this DVD provides a nice double dose of her at her most "over the top" crazy. "Who Slew Auntie Roo?" has Ms. Winters playing Auntie Roo, a kindly old soul who provides extravagent Christmas cheer to some poor orphans. Complications arise when one of the orphans reminds Auntie Roo of her deceased daughter-whose rotted corpse Auntie Roo keeps upstairs in the nursery. "What's the Matter with Helen" has Ms Winters playing an insane religious fanatic in a lurid tale of murder and madness. Ms Winters stars with Debbie Reynolds and Agnes Moorehead which makes this DVD a collection must for fans of "middle aged actresses in lurid question asking horror movies". Both movies have beautiful widescreen presentations with original trailers. NOTE to the exceutive who decides which movies to market: Shelley Winters made more exploitlation movies during this era including "Bloody Mama" and "The Mad Room"; what an excellent double feature that would make."
J. Michael Click | Fort Worth, Texas United States | 01/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""What's the Matter ...?" Movie: ***** DVD Quality: ***** DVD Extras: *** "Whoever Slew ...?" Movie: **** DVD Quality: ***** DVD Extras: ***
Here's a supremely entertaining double feature sure to please mystery, horror, and suspense fans. Both movies include top-notch casts; lavish art direction and set decorations; great costumes; are effectively edited; and are expertly directed by Curtis Harrington. In "What's the Matter ...?", Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters star as the mothers of two convicted murderers who move to Hollywood circa 1934 to start their lives over. However, it soon becomes apparent that someone connected with their pasts has pursued them and is out for revenge ... or could it be that one of them is cracking up? Guessing at the solution is great fun, and in addition to masterful performances by Reynolds and Winters, the film also includes solid work by Dennis Weaver as Reynolds' wealthy beau, the wonderfully acidic Agnes Moorehead as a religious charlatan, and a character actor named Micheal MacLiammour in a wickedly funny turn that calls to mind a deranged version of Sydney Greenstreet in "The Maltese Falcon". In "Whoever Slew ...?", Shelley Winters returns in the role of a grieving American mother who opens her English home to a group of orphaned and destitute children for the Christmas holiday. Already a bit unbalanced, she becomes obsessed with one little girl who reminds her of her dead daughter; the girl's older brother (Mark Lester) becomes convinced that Winters is the real life incarnation of the witch from "Hansel and Gretel" and intends them harm. Soon enough the crazed Winters and the crafty Lester are engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse ... but which is the cat and which is the mouse? The cast also features Sir Ralph Richardson, Oscar-winner Hugh Griffith ("Ben-Hur"), and the delightfully droll Rosalie Crutchley (housekeeper Mrs. Dudley from the 1963 version of "The Haunting") as the sour head of the local orphanage.
The MGM "Midnite Movies" DVD features excellent video and audio transfers of each film, both of which are presented in their original widescreen aspect ratios. The only extras included are the Original Theatrical Trailers for each film, not such a disappointment when you stop to consider that you're getting two great little "B" films for the price of one. Highly recommended to fans of the genre and to all those who admirer the various highly talented cast members."