Judge Patrick Naugle has lost his appetite for '60s kitsch.
Can you face the ultimate in diabolism?
American scientist Stephen Reinhart (Nick Adams, Frankenstein Conquers the World) is in England visiting his fiancée's family when he comes across a town that recoils when Nick inquires about the Whitley estate. Nick quickly finds out why the Whitley's are so feared: the family's patriarch and Nick's future father-in-law, the elder Nahum (Boris Karloff, Bride of Frankenstein), is keeping some very scary secrets in his basement. As Nick and his fiancée, Susan (Suzan Farmer, Dracula: Prince of Darkness), nose around the Whitley estate, they find a horror unlike anything they've ever seen before!
I was never a very big fan of the Hammer Horror film series. Those English productions—featuring Christopher Lee and a host of other overseas actors—often re-imagined classic movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy) with their own brand of overseas storytelling. Personally, I often found most Hammer films slow and lethargic, far more atmospheric than actual "horror."
Die, Monster, Die! (also known as Monster of Terror) feels very much like a Hammer horror offshoot. Taking place in an old English mansion and featuring horror legend Boris Karloff (looking as old and frail as death himself), the movie features a lot of shadows and fog, instilling more an eerie sense of dread than actual horror into the proceedings. Die, Monster, Die! is based upon a short story by H.P. Lovecraft ("The Color Out of Space"), whose work has often been viewed as being near impossible to put on screen. Many filmmakers have tried, and most have failed; only Chicago born director Stuart Gordon has been able to match Lovecraft's madness cinematically with such cult classics as From Beyond and the truly great Re-Animator. The rest of them have almost universally fallen short of Lovecraft's tricky literary terror.
Die, Monster, Die! moves at a snail's pace, which means it will test the patience of younger viewers and those who require dangling entrails and exploding eyeballs every three minutes. It seems to take forever to get to the good stuff (you know, the monsters that should…err, die). When some of the mutated monsters (mutated plants) do finally show, it's no surprise to find them quite disappointing; they look an outtake from a really bizarre Muppet show. Their appearance is so brief that it's almost a blink-or-you'll-miss-it cameo. The other "monster" involves a woman in a long black dress and a veil (ho-hum) and a glowing human who looks like a live-action version of G.I. Joe's villain Destro.
Horror legend Boris Karloff is, as usual, the consummate professional. No matter how sub par the material, Karloff always seems to be giving his all, in the hopes that a decent performance will help elevate the final product (which doesn't end up being the case here). As slow and laborious as Die, Monster, Die! is, Karloff is really the sole reason to sit through it. Director Daniel Haller (who would tackle Lovecraft yet again with 1970 film The Dunwich Horror) tackles Jerry Sohl's (Star Trek: The Original Series) screenplay with a flatness that doesn't give the film much excitement. There's very little tension in Die, Monster, Die!, save for a few jump scares due to loud music cues.
Die, Monster, Die! (Blu-ray) is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. The image quality on this low budget quickie is remarkably good considering the film is nearly fifty years old. Colors appear pleasantly saturated if a tad bit muted. Black levels are solid and dark. There are a few very minor imperfections in the transfer, but these are few and far between. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono in English. This audio mix isn't anything to write home about. The audio mix is collected in the front speaker only. At the very least the dialogue, music, and effects work are all clear and distinguishable. Shout Factory gets props for giving love to a film that didn't really need it. No subtitles or alternate soundtracks are included on this disc.
The sole extra feature is the film's theatrical trailer.
Die, Monster, Die! is a light and airy film, that's over soon after it starts. I wish I could report it's a long lost horror gem, but this has earned its reputation as a forgettable scare show. If you want to see an actor like Boris Karloff terrify the pants off you, go back and check out his work in James Whale's Frankenstein (1931).
A below-grade '60s horror cheapie that's for Karloff completists only.
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