Movie Review: Die, Monster, Die!

Directed by Daniel Haller
Starring Boris Karloff, Suzan Farmer, Nick Adams, Freda Jackson, Terence de Marney, Patrick Magee

It’s funny sometime as a movie lover, that you have such fondness for a particular film that you had first seen as a kid, always remembering how cool it was. As an adult though, does that cinematic pleasure still remain, even after you’ve become more “educated” in the film world? Even after reading some less than positive reviews about the film? Do you watch it now and wonder how could I have ever liked this? Or is it like a small part of your brain is stepping back in time to that first viewing?

I’ve been on both sides of that argument. And honestly, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. The first time I saw Die, Monster, Die!, it was on a small color TV, because I definitely remember the colors. Ironic, isn’t it, since that is really what this whole movie is about? It was based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, The Colour Out of Space, which was first published back in 1927, and the author would later state that it was “the only one of the lot which I take any pride in.”

But there was something about watching this, years before I would even know who Lovecraft was, that still made an mark on me. Maybe it was the famous “zoo from Hell” sequence that really got under my skin that first time. When watched today, with my adult and educated eyes, I somehow see pass the cheesiness, the lack of budget, and it still creeps me out. Plus, with Boris Karloff starring, how could I not love this movie. After all these years, I still do.

Nick Adams arrives in the small town of Arkham to see his fiancée, only to get the cold shoulder from everyone when he asked about getting to the Witley place. Apparently they don’t care for that particular family. We soon find out why, as he makes his way to the property, only to be greeted with hostility from his future father-in-law, Nahum Witley, played by the wheelchair bound Karloff. When his fiancée (Suzan Farmer) does appears and welcomes him with open arms, the old man is none too happy.

We follow the couple wandering through the house and the grounds as they try to uncover the strange things going. Yes, there is a bit of scenes being stretched out here and there. But I chalk that up here as building suspense, so there! Farmer’s mother, played by Freda Jackson (though very under used here) is ill with some mysterious malady, which might be tied in with whatever else is going on. The most memorable scene for me is when they wander out to the greenhouse to find out there is a strange glow coming from inside, as well as making those strange noises.

When the discovery is made, that is the sequence that clenched it for my young mind. It was like nothing I’d seen before and was so weird, so strange and surreal, that it definitely made an impact on me. Of course, I’m referring to the “zoo” part I mentioned eariler. If you’ve seen the film, then you know what I’m referring to. If you haven’t, then you’ll have to see it for yourself. The feelings I got from those visuals and the sounds remained locked away somewhere in my brain, that come to the forefront anytime I watch this movie.

As the couple discover the cause for the glowing, and the effect it is having on the rest of the house and the people living in it, they plan their escape. But it’s not over just yet.

Daniel Haller made his directorial debut with this film, and would make another venture into the world of H.P. Lovecraft with The Dunwich Horror (1970), but then while he would continue directing, he mainly worked on TV shows. But he started in the film business in the Art Department, working for many films for Roger Corman, from early titles like Night of the Blood Beast (1958) and Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) to the Poe Pictures Corman did like Pit and the Pendulum (1960) and The Raven (1963), so you can see where his skill there really made Die, Monster, Die! a very colorful spectacle.

With a very small cast, I think Haller and company made a great little film here. Some complain about Karloff breezing through his performance, which I think is nonsense. Karloff was never known not to give his all to any performance and here is no different. He’s scary, while driven to finish what he had started, and even shows some sympathy for the character near the end. Yes, Nick Adams is a bit stiff for the role, but for me, that wasn’t what kept me watching. It was Karloff, the wonderful sets and colors, and those bizarre creatures. And the end still brings a smile to my face.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Die, Monster, Die!

  1. I remember how surprised I was , running across this film on CHILLER THEATER back in the early 70s, to see the scariest story I had yet read by Lovecraft referenced in the opening credits. I had read a comic book based on this film when I was 9 and the dread it left with me that day still resonated.
    It’s not up to the source material, but it’s definitely better than THE DUNWICH HORROR, and a pretty good horror film taken on its own merits.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And if I’m right and 1936’s INVISIBLE RAY is the first attempt at wresting a movie out of COLOUR, then Karloff fell victim to that meteorite’s radiation TWICE!

    Liked by 1 person

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