Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Die, Monster, Die!

**(out of 4 stars)

Stephen Reinhart (Nick Adams) is traveling to the small village of Arkham in England. He's hoping to reacquaint with Susan Witley (Suzan Farmer)whom he fell in love with when they were going to college back in America.

Susan Witley lives in the Witley house. The house is held in contempt by the local townsfolk and they seem to fear it. Stephen is denied any form of transportation and continues to find the house on his own two feet.

Eventually he finds the mysterious house, surrounded by an ominous fog. Once inside he's greeted by Nahum Witley, (Boris Karloff) a wheelchair confined scientist and father of Susan. Nahum Witley insist that Stephen leaves immediately. Stephen refuses and decides to hang out for a few days.

Stephen talks with Susan's mother, Letitia Witley,(Freda Jackson) whom actually summoned Stephen to come to Arkham in the first place. She speaks of weird happenings around the home and the sudden disappearance of their maid, Helga. Letitia seems to have fallen victim to some sort of disease and is sensitive to light, which is why she's obscured by draping cloth, surrounding her bed. She urges Stephen to take her daughter away from the house. For some reason, Stephen sticks around only to go snooping on the old Nahum Witley late at night.

Later, as the mystery is slowing revealing itself, Stephen and Susan enter the greenhouse and discover pieces of a meteorite that is rapidly changing the growth process of the plant and animal life. Further investigation brings us to the basement of the Witley home, where the rest of the meteorite is hidden by Nahum. Although the meteor is bringing life to the plants, it's also grotesquely mutating others in the house that have been exposed to it for long periods of time. Namely: Helga, Letitia and Merwyn (Terence De Marney) the manservant. After the mysterious death of Merwyn, Nahum is seen burying his body.

As the film comes to a climax, Stephen and Susan are running rampant trying to stay alive. We learn that Helga went crazy and now emerges as an ugly, mutated, toxic waste, chasing around our hero's. She is brandishing a butcher's knife and dressed all in black. She is eventually killed off. And don't forget old Mrs. Witley. Remember her sensitivity to light? Well now she's a melting mess of toxic goo as well, with murder on the brain. Unfortunately she chases Stephen out in an open rain storm and melts away faster than the wicked witch of the west.

Nahum Witley does have a moment of sympathy when he destroys the meteorite and begs Stephen and Susan to leave. Soon, though, he shows up looking like the toxic avenger's cousin. His face is green-glowing and smoldering due to radiation. After the final battle ensues, Nahum falls two stories to his death. The radiation erupts from his body and sets fire to the house. Stephen and Susan are surrounded by orange and red flames, but make it out unharmed.

This film was taken from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space". Jerry Sohl penned the screenplay and Daniel Haller directs.

This would be the first Lovecraft adaptation that Haller would try, later he would direct The Dunwich Horror. I haven't read the original source material (The Colour Out of Space) so I'm not sure how parallel the plot is with Die, Monster Die! I have, however, heard that this film deviates away from the story and only adds little bits of Lovecraft's original idea.

The movie relies heavily on the Gothic feel. The sets are good and the house itself seem to be dreadful enough. Certainly not somewhere I'd venture too after dark, well, maybe I would. The overall plot, whether sticking to the original material or not, is rather effective and I got a kick out of it. I like the effects on Helga and Letitia after they turn into toxic killers. Their faces have a green tint to them and the features are melted about the face, contorting all the features into a grotesque image. I found that part of the make-up rather good.

The effects... not so much. Most of them are superimposed and looked really cheesy and out dated. I know, I know. It's 1965 for fucks sake. The effects were good for its time! But really, it took me away from the overall frights that the film tried to deliver on.

The acting is good - not a problem there. Nick Adams plays a good role and is very believable. However, Boris Karloff is the obvious reason that this film is watched in its entirety. I say that because without him, this film falls to one star for me. He brings such a presence to the screen with his low voice and those mysterious eyes. We never really know what to think of Mr. Witley. At one point we see a selfish scientist, risking his family for the secrets kept. By the end - we see a man trying to save his family by trying to destroy that secret.

Boris Karloff was 77 when he made this film and was actually using a wheelchair. It's a shame to know he'd be dead in just a few, short years. Even at the ripe age of 77 he still had it. He never lost that touch. Actors like him come few and far between.

Cast: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Suzan Farmer

Story: H.P. Lovecraft

Screenplay: Jerry Sohl

Directed by: Daniel Haller

Running Time: 1hr 19min


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