Wednesday, October 31, 2007
DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965) opens as an obnoxious American named Steven Reinhardt (Nick Adams) arrives in an quaint English town named Arkham. Fans of the BBC TV series LEAGUE OF GENTLEMAN will notice more than a passing resemblance to Royston Vasey. The locals do not welcome him with open arms, especially when he mentions that he is looking for the Witley house. As soon as he mentions the Witleys, everyone treats him with such disdain that you'd think he was wearing an "I Love George Bush" tee shirt. He can't get a taxi, he can't rent a bicycle and nobody will even give him directions! "What will it cost me to get to the Witley place?" he asks the bike shop gent. "More than you'd imagine!" the fellow replies. Whatever the Witleys have done - it must be pretty darn awful.
Steven sets out on foot to find the dreaded house, barely noticing the dead plants and trees along the way. He arrives at the mansion, but when his knock goes unanswered, the doors fly open - as if to invite him in. Spooky! Once inside, he snoops around a bit until he is startled by Nahum Witley (the great Boris Karloff), who appears to be disabled and is bound to a wheelchair. Witley is not very welcoming to Steven - until he tells Witney that his wife Leticia had invited him to visit, in order to "help" their daughter Susan, who Steven met back in college. Susan has been having a difficult time since returning home. Old man Witley wants Steven to leave at once, but Susan then appears and insists on him staying. Dad reluctantly agrees let him stay for a few days - and then he proceeds to spy on the two lovebirds.
We next meet the mysterious Leticia, who is bedridden with a mysterious illness. Mrs. Witley is hidden behind black lace, and she tells Steven that she wants him to take Susan as far away from the Whitley house as he can! She also mentions that her maid Helga has disappeared. It's so hard to find good help these days.
We also meet Merwyn the Butler, who looks like Frankie Valli in a gray wig with mod sunglasses. Whitley and Merwyn pay a visit to the cellar to give us a clue to what Whitley's father was up to that might have made the townsfolk hate him so much. Whitley exclaims "If there is evil… it's buried with him!" I predict it had something to do with selling Amway products...or Satan...or both.
Whitley has a chat with his wife and promises "Whatever happened to my father will not happen to me!" "It is already happening" she replies. What could that be all about??? After Merwyn the butler collapses at the dinner table, Steve and Susan take a tour of the house. Susan tells him that she wants to leave the house. Steven tells her they can go right now. Susan says she can't leave her mother - but maybe in the morning. Like she's gonna be all better in the morning? Meanwhile, we learn that Merwyn has taken a turn for the worse - he's died. So Witley buries him. Oh - I thought Whitley was disabled...
Steven spies on Witley, and notices that he can walk - and that the family greenhouse has a unworldly green glow. The next day Steven visits the town doctor, who tells him that he was the last person to see Whitley's dad alive - he died in the doc's arms - but his body disappeared! Okay...I guess that's reason enough for everyone to loathe the family. Not really.
Later at the Witley place, Susan shows Steven how to break into the greenhouse - and we learn that Whitley has been genetically modifying vegetables by placing glowing green stones in their soil. There are also some odd mutant animals in cages - "It looks like a zoo in hell!" Oh yeah - then Susan gets attacked by a living vine. What I guess is that a radioactive meteorite crashed near to the house and Whitley hid it in the greenhouse, and it made his veggies grow big. Not only that, but it made everyone in the house sick - including turning their pets into the "menagerie of horrors!"
Steven visits the cellar and is attacked by a crazed faceless Leticia, who then dies and is buried. As Steven and Susan prepare to leave, Helga (remember her?) attacks Witley who then turns into the Silver Surfer! Steven and Susan must then fight off her father and escape the mansion before the end credits. Wow. What the fuck did I just watch?
I have no idea what the Satanic Whitley family history and the glowing meteorite have to do with each other, if anything... and most of all - why the Arkham townfolk hate the Whitley family so much. I feel like that maybe a half-hour of plot that explained all this was cut out of the film, because none of it makes any sense. It really feels like a jigsaw with about ten big pieces missing.
And what exactly does DIE, MONSTER, DIE! refer to? I guess any movie with Boris Karloff had to have some sort of Frankenstein reference in order to sell tickets. Maybe the title of the original HP Lovecraft story that this is based on makes more sense. Oh wait - it's called "The Color Out of Space". Nevermind.
But you know what - even if all the "Huhs?" don't add up, I still found the film quite atmospheric and gorgeous to look at. Karloff is always fun to watch - and here he's at his Grinch-y best, I'll give him - 7 outta 10. Directed by THE DUNWICH HORROR's Daniel Haller .