Die Monster Die! (1965)
Die Monster Die (or Monster Of Terror) is a very American film, and not just because it's (loosely) based on an HP Lovecraft tale. Although set in Britain, with a mainly British cast, somehow it has more in common with the drive-in movies being made across the pond at the time than anything by Hammer or Amicus. In fact, the town of "Arkham" could quite easily be in New England (apart from the "oo-arrr" accents which proliferate).
The Yankee-doodle-feel is furthered by the inclusion of a very American leading man (you can tell he's American, apparently, because his "clothes don't fit right") in Steve Reinhardt (Nick Adams).
Steve arrives in Arkham at the beginning of the film and immediately gets the cold shoulder from the locals - in fact, their reception is so frosty it borders on farce. On mention of the word "Witley" he's shunned in the streets, laughed at by drunken pubgoers, and can't even hire a bicycle.
"What will it cost me to get to the Witley place?" he asks the bike shop assistant.
"More than you'd imagine!" comes the reply. Well, at least he's speaking to him
Steve makes his way there on foot, passing by an enormous crater in the ground, trees that have been turned to ash, and is watched by a mysterious veiled figure. On arrival at The Witley Place (despite many "no tresspassing" signs, they've neglected to lock the gate) he's welcomed by a wheelchair-bound Boris Karloff (if "welcomed" is the right word), who seems to appear out of nowhere. Steve is actally there to see Karloff's daughter, Susan, who he knows from college. He's been invited by Mrs Witley. Unlike her dad, Susan's made up at his arrival, and gives Steve a quick tour of the family portraits ("That's my grandfather he went insane" she chirpily explains). It looks like mum's going that way, too - she stays hidden behind her bed drapes and the maid got so fed up with her shenanigans that she's buggered off.
Meanwhile, Karloff's up to something in the cellar, darkly muttering things like "chains for devils " and saying about his father: "If there is evil it's buried with him."
In a cosy chat with his veiled wife, he adds: "I have uttered no incantations. Nor called out to these so-called 'creatures of evil'. Whatever happened to my father will not happen to me!"
"It is already happening " she replies.
But he hasn't finished yet. "The truth is that I see the future and al that I have planned for it will fill it with a richness we have never known!"
To which his cheerful wife replies: "That's what you see. All I can see is horror horror "
The night passes with strange screams coming from outside, the butler collapsing spectacularly at dinner (and later dying), and a very tense investigation of the darkened house by Steve and Susan, with clocks speeding up and fires spitting (well, it made me jump).
After spotting Karloff walking around in the night time garden and finding himself drawn to the strangely glowing greenhouse in the grounds, Steve decides to try and get some answers from the family quack, but instead gets treated to a brief cameo from professional spooky doctor Patrick Magee (and learns nothing, of course).
Back at the Witley place, Steve takes Susan into the greenhouse and they discover enormous plants, strange stones in the soil, and (of less interest, apparently) a bunch of screaming (and extremely well-realised, for the time) monsters in cages in the back room. "The room is being exposed to some kind of radiation," says Steve. "It looks like a zoo in hell!"
As the storm-lashed ending approaches (those clichés are just piling up), we learn thata meteorite landed near to the house and Boris discovered that it made things grow, so it might be good for the garden (Baby Bio not good enough, obviously).
There's deaths a-plenty and a typically flaming climax, along with what looks like a stuntman in a Boris Karloff mask running around doused in silver paint (luckily much use of filters help dilute this effect).
Die Monster Die is a pretty good little shocker, which also benefits from being mercifully short. Although the two plot strands (mad family history, meteorite) don't actually appear to have anything to do with each other, which makes you wonder why they bothered shoehorning them both in.
Last updated: February 22, 2010
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