It'd been more than 30 years since the great James Whale, as legend tells, first approached Boris Karloff at the Universal commissary to ask him to read for the role of The Monster in Frankenstein. Now, nearing 80, Karloff was the skilled veteran, the known quantity, and perfect for his role as a rabidly reclusive patriarch bound to preserve his family's darkest secret in Die, Monster, Die! (1965, 79 minutes). And while not among his more heralded work, it's a performance which reinforces why his career was among the most successful in horror.
The movie: Steve is a REALLY pushy American (Nick Adams) who travels to England to make eyes at a gal he knows there. Upon his arrival, the townspeople scatter in different directions when he asks to be taken to the Witley estate. In fact, they're downright rude. So, he walks. And walks. And walks some more. Until finally he arrives and Papa Witley (Karloff) makes it VERY clear the kid isn't welcome there either. Just then the blonde who Steve came all that way to soul kiss bounds down the stairs and into his arms. OK, he can stay. The Witleys live in a creep-show house right down to its dank dungeon which has played host to weird satanic rites. Yet, Steve is too preoccupied with Ms. Witley (Suzan Farmer) to really notice -- right away, anyway. Only after a bewildering heart-to-heart with the mysterious Mama Witley (Freda Jackson), a judo match with a broad in a grim reaper outfit and another trip into town to be shouted at, does Steve decide to grab his woman and jump the next boat outta the land of rotten molars. But before he can, much weirdness ensues and the flick actually gets interesting. In a wacky sort of way.
Notables: No breasts. Four corpses. Bear trap as security device. Window peeping. Sizzled palm. Face melting. Fuzzy slippers. Boozing. Chick-eating plants. Gratuitous scene with rubber bats on strings. Disco lights.
Quotables: Steve can't believe his eyes, "It looks like a zoo in hell!!!" Mr. Witley will not be convinced to leave, "You seem to forget. This is my home! I live here. And I, like my father and his father before him, was born here. I'm an old man now, and if I'm to die -- I will die here."
Time codes: Exceedingly psychedelic credit sequence (:35). There's a REASON the green house is padlocked (52:53). Classic spook-house gag (58:45).
Audio/Video: Presented in its original widescreen (2.35:1) format. The print is weathered and alive with artifacts that don't really feel alien to a film of this age and genre. Utilitarian Dolby Digital mono track.
Extras: Static menus without audio. No insert or liner notes. Theatrical trailer is somewhat suspicious as there is no voiceover and no titles of any kind. Simply scenes roughly cut together.
Final thought: The plodding plot would be more painful if the flick were longer, but the intriguing meld of gothic horror and contemporary sci-fi is hard to pass up. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.