Die, Monster, Die Blu-ray Review
Directed by Daniel Haller
Written by Jerry Sohl
1965, Region A, 78 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on January 21st, 2014
Boris Karloff as Nahum Witley
Nick Adams as Stephen Reinhart
Suzan Farmer as Susan
Freda Jackson as Letitia
Terence de Marney as Merwyn
Patrick Magee as Dr. Henderson
Stephen Reinhart is an American college student in England trying to hook up with his old sweetheart Susan Witley. Upon arrival in Arkham, the locals are rude; cabbies won't drive Stephen to Susan's house, merchants decline his request to rent a bicycle, and everyone else can't be bothered to give him directions. Unable to take no for an answer, Stephen decides to simply walk to Witley Manor. Despite having no idea which way to go, he somehow manages to find the place on the far side of a burned-out landscape. When no one answers the door, he simply lets himself inside and is somehow surprised to meet a pissed off old man who doesn't like intruders. This is Nahum Witley, the girl's wheelchair-bound father and he insists this foreigner leave the house at once. Susan arrives in time to smooth things over and encourages Stephen to meet her mother over dad's protests.
Mother Witley is bedridden and quietly begs the young man to take her daughter away from here immediately. The Ugly American knows when he's not wanted and decides to stay the night (?!), and it is here that things get weird. First, the butler collapses during dinner, then strange noises are heard from the ominously glowing greenhouse outside. Stephen is keen on solving the mystery of why nobody wants his company, and drags Susan around the house and surrounding grounds in search of clues. Old Man Witley has little trouble staying several paces ahead of Stephen, despite stairs and uneven terrain. What is the secret of Witley Manor that makes everyone rude and afraid? The answer may surprise you since it comes out of left field and the botched delivery sinks the rest of the picture.
Die, Monster, Die (aka Monster of Terror) was released by American International Pictures during the height of the popular gothic horror wave led by the series of Edgar Allan Poe pictures helmed by Roger Corman. Daniel Haller (The Dunwich Horror) makes his directorial debut here, having already enjoyed a career as a production designer on many Corman pictures including Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit & The Pendulum. He successfully establishes a sense of dread and manages to generate some suspense before falling victim to several tedious sequences of people walking around the sets. Where Haller really fails as a director is working with the actors, as performances generally fall flat. Karloff is awesome as the elder Witley, but that is because he is Boris fucking Karloff (Frankenstein, The Mummy) and was already four decades deep into his career before accepting this rent check of a role.
The script by Jerry Sohl (Frankenstein Conquers the World) is silly and hits every cliché in the book. Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, the film shares many similarities to Edgar Allan Poe's Fall of the House of Usher; from the traveler arriving at the spooky house in search of a pretty girl only to be met by a creepy older relative, to the mysterious family curse and ultimate fiery resolution. Sohl includes a few elements from Lovecraft's source material, but then switches his attention to the popular intergalactic radioactive terrors of the 1950s. It's all very unfortunate and the one thing working in the film's favor is a mercifully brief running time.
Die, Monster, Die is the movie you throw in with friends when no proper Hammer Films are available, the Corman/ Poe pics have been exhausted or maybe it's Boris Karloff's birthday and this is the only title you could find. Otherwise, viewers will want to gather some booze and watch for the silliness of scenes like the “zoo in hell” or the foil-wrapped stunt man running around the finale. There's really not much to recommend here except maybe checking out any of the other titles mentioned earlier within this review.
Video and Audio:
Presented here in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture is sharp with strong colors and deep black levels. The print is in surprisingly good condition, with only a few dings during the opening credits, and otherwise does not look like a movie almost 50 years old.
The default DTS-HD MA 2.0 track offers a solid presentation that preserves the original mono audio. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion which is good considering there are no subtitle options on this disc.
The theatrical trailer is the only special feature on this disc...and it isn't a very good one.