Horror Movie A Day: Quint on DIE, MONSTER, DIE (1965) It looks like a zoo in hell!
Published at: Oct. 30, 2008, 5:02 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
Unfortunately, this movie didn’t do it for me.
I love me some Boris Karloff, especially of this era. Have you guys seen Peter Bogdanovich’s TARGETS from 1968? Fucking awesome movie that gives Karloff one of his best “badass moments.” Those who have seen the movie know exactly the shot I’m talking about, Karloff striding through the drive-in, determination etched on his face.
And Karloff isn’t bad in this movie, but boy… the filmmaking sure is. In fact, none of the actors drop the ball in the movie, from stone-jawed lead Nick Adams to damsel in distress Suzan Farmer to mystery woman behind the veil Freda Jackson… all do their best with decent material… but I can guarantee you, having not read up on anything about this picture, this was a troubled production.
It feels like they were missing shots and many shots feel like filler, only there for connective tissue. Nick Adams and Suzan Farmer… can you walk from left to right past camera looking like you’re both robots with expressionless faces… oh, and make sure you don’t say anything so there’s an awkward silence for 10 seconds as you walk from one conversation to another… great, thanks!
I see this was Daniel Haller’s first film and it feels it. Haller was a Corman regular behind the camera, working on flicks like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, A BUCKET OF BLOOD, THE TERROR, THE RAVEN and many more as production designer and/or art director. This is his first directorial film and I think what we’re left with is a movie filled with growing pains… film school realized into a movie.
Haller also directed the very first film of this HMAD series, THE DUNWICH HORROR, also an HP Lovecraft story, and then spent the rest of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s directing television, so I’m sure he became very good at what he does. For all my issues with DUNWICH, I find it to be a much more competent film than DIE, MONSTER, DIE.
In a weird way, this film mirrors another HMAD based on another literary master of the macabre’s work, Edgar Allan Poe’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.
In both you have a creepy handicapped relative who is trying to keep their family from leaving a tortured and tormented house. In USHER it is Vincent Price trying to keep his sister from leaving and in MONSTER it is Boris Karloff trying to keep his daughter from leaving. In both films, the young woman’s true love shows up and tries to pull them free.
In every way THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER is the better movie… I think it’s just a better story, to be honest, but I’m no expert on HP Lovecraft, so I can’t tell you how much of this is the fault of the filmmakers or the original Lovecraft story “Colour Out of Space.”
I’ve read a fair amount of Lovecraft and greatly enjoyed it, even if very little stuck with me after reading. I don’t know about the rest of you, but what sticks in my mind isn’t Lovecraft’s plotting or characters, but his tone… that dread that just seeps out of each word on each page.
Have we ever really gotten a great Lovecraft adaptation? I love RE-ANIMATOR, but that movie doesn’t have the tone I’m thinking of. Unless I’m missing something, I think maybe DAGON got the closest… I guess we’ll have to pray to Cthuthlu that Guillermo del Toro will take his “I can make any movie I want for any budget” card that he earns from directing THE HOBBIT and make AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS and the streak can end.
What you do have in DIE, MONSTER, DIE is a very small section where we see mutant plants that are effectively disconcerting. The greenhouse is home to these plants (which look like giant octopuses in cages) which were fertilized with kryptonite… I’m not kidding… much.
What’s causing the land surrounding this mansion to be barren and void, avoided by the people of the nearest township (Lovecraft’s go-to Arkham) is a meteorite that crashed down when Karloff was a little boy. His father became obsessed with it and locked in the basement, ultimately going crazy.
Karloff is following in his father’s footsteps, but isn’t willing to acknowledge his obsession as the same thing until it has literally destroyed everything he cares about.
Oh, and spoiler here, but he decides to fight the green rock and becomes infected by it… turning into the Silver Surfer… a radioactive, insane Silver Surfer who becomes the monster at the end of the movie. It’s fucking ridiculous, but at least it has some fun spectacle to it.
Final Thoughts: If the filmmaking was better and not so choppy, sloppy and haphazard this would have been a pretty good little movie… they had the talent in front of the camera, that’s for sure, but ultimately we’re left with a mediocre film that could have and should have been much better. Keep an eye out for some familiar character actors in the town, like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE’s Patrick Magee in a throw-away role as the town doctor and a few lines from Sydney Bromley who will be instantly recognized by anyone who grew up in the ‘80s as Engywook from THE NEVERENDING STORY (“To the witch, wench!”).
Today’s pick from my list of horror favorites will be a bit different from DIE, MONSTER, DIE, so apologies for lack of continuity, but this is a title that I think deserves a big mention and I figured it’s about time we get to it.
WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? was a surprise to me when it arrived in the mail from Dark Sky. I sometimes get their stuff, so I assume I’m on one of their lists. A lot of their titles are still on this list… I don’t know what it was about this one that made me put it in right away and not let it languish on the “To Watch” pile… It was probably the title. How intriguing is that title?
Directed by Narciso Ibanez Serrador (THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED) this 1976 flick is an amazing experiment in creepy atmosphere in bright sunshine that keeps building and building and building.
Basically you have two English tourists in Spain, a husband and his pregnant wife, who decide to boat out to a small island village to get away from the tourist Spain. They want the real deal.
When they get there, they notice a pack of kids roaming around who seem a little shocked to see the couple. They run off and the couple go in look for a hotel, but soon discover the town is all but abandoned.
There’s no evidence of any horror, but it’s just empty. Creepy. Deserted… except for the children. No adults are anywhere to be seen and the kids don’t seem all that friendly towards the tourists.
But they do show a freaky fascination with the woman’s pregnant belly.
As any horror regular can figure out, that’s not going to end well and when the finale comes your mouth will be hanging open.
You can put this film in the “Nature Gone Wrong” category, too, in a weird way. You’ll see what I mean if you run this flick, but it makes a very fascinating political message that I was definitely not expecting.
And speaking of tone earlier, this movie is dark as shit. You know nothing is going to go right for our hapless couple and indeed nothing does. In fact, when you think it can’t possibly get any worse… it sure as fucking does.
I highly recommend giving this one a spin if you haven’t seen it!
Now, I’m not a big Lars Von Trier fan… nor am I fan of the Dogme style of filmmaking… I like my movies to look cinematic, that’s part of the artistry of film to me. But I hear really good things about this flick and I’m very curious to see if this one turns me around on the man’s work. See you folks tomorrow for EPIDEMIC!