Director: Daniel Haller
Cast: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Freda Jackson
By Brian M. Sammons
Die, Monster, Die is the newest Blu-ray from Scream Factory, but it could be their most classic release yet. Made in 1965 and staring an icon of horror, Boris Karloff, it is also the first of the many screen adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space.” Now “Colour” was not only Lovecraft’s favorite of all his own tales, but it must be the favorite of moviemakers as well, as it is the most filmed out of all of HPL’s stories. Following this movie there was the Wil Wheaton career killing, The Curse from 1987. Then in 2008 there was Colour from the Dark from Italy. In 2010 the Germans gave us the very good Die Farbe. As if that wasn’t enough Colour in your life, right now there is another adaptation of this story being made into a movie by Richard Stanley of Dust Devil and Hardware cult fame. But Die. Monster, Die was the first flick in this long chain. How well did they adapt the story to the screen and how good was the movie overall? Well let’s find out.
This film moves the action from New England to merry old England as an American arrives in a small British town looking for the Witley house, which sounds suspiciously a lot like the Whateleys from “The Dunwhich Horror” and nothing at all like the Gardners from the actual story. Man I hate it when films needlessly, and without any reason, mix and match Lovecraftian names. Were they trying to confuse the few people in 1965 that had read the original story for some reason? Is Gardners English slag for something like butt-muncher and so they didn’t want people giggling when they heard it? This random change really confused me.
Anyway, everyone in town gives the American the stink-eye and won’t help him a lick once he says where he’s going. He must walk the entire way to the Whateley…er…Witley house, past a big crater in the ground and plants that crumble at his touch. Why did this Yank come all the way to England and then to such a shunned place? Why for some British nookie, of course. The traveler is there to meet up with the lovely Susan. The two want to be engaged but Susan’s sourpuss, wheelchair-bound father is not keen on the idea of losing his daughter to the American stranger. He also doesn’t want any visitors at his large, and largely crumbling, estate. The secret behind the old man’s reclusiveness, played to crusty perfection by Boris Karloff, is the key to the mystery of this story. Sadly at this point that story becomes the basic gothic horror movie common to the time, instead of the cool cosmic horror that the film was actually based on.
Only the barest of bones from Lovecraft’s tale can be found here. Something fell from the sky, vegetables grow large, people get ugly cancer-like growths on them, and that’s about it. The cool alien intelligence that was the colour in HPL’s tale is gone, replaced by simple radiation. Sure one of the servants goes mad, but it’s more out of grief than the sinister effect of being fed on by something from beyond the stars. Also a thin veneer of black magic is painted over everything here, changing the uncaring cosmic horror of Lovecraft to the more traditional “the devil is naughty” vibe. Then there’s the large portion of this film that has the American visitor wandering the gloomy halls of the Witley house, searching for the sources of strange sounds, but actually uncovering very little. Really, this movie feels much more like the Poe films Roger Corman did in the 60s than anything Lovecraft related.
Things do pick up slightly towards the end when the young couple break into the family’s very green (as in green glowing) greenhouse to find the afore mentioned big honking tomatoes, some glowing meteor rocks, and some very puppet-looking monsters in cages that the not-really-crippled Mr. Witley has been experimenting with. At the very end, Witley turns out to be not so bad as he begs his guest to take his daughter away from this cursed place before going down to his satanic-looking basement, complete with a skull-shaped well, to destroy the meteor. Things don’t go as planned and Boris gets changed into what I can only assume is the monster from this movie’s title, as nothing else fits the bill. Well, maybe the forced perspective sock puppets in the greenhouse, but they don’t do anything other than make annoying noises. Anyway, monster Witley (that I’m pretty sure is no longer played by Karloff) comes back up from the basement, looking like G.I. Joe’s Destro for some odd reason. The metal man chases the lovebirds around the house for a bit before falling to his death from a whooping six foot height, and thereby causing the entire mansion to come crumbling down, a la the House of Usher.
As for the extras on the new Blu-ray, there is only one: a trailer. That’s it. Ho-hum. Sure the movie looks great in HD. The bright and vibrant colors (Colours?) common in 60s sci-fi and horror flicks really pop on Blu-ray. But are you telling me that not one special feature could have been done for this movie? No one was willing to talk about it at all? Even if everyone involved with it was dead, they could have gotten someone to do a critical or fan commentary or something. While I am glad to have this movie out on BD at all, I just hate bare bones discs, especially from a company like Scream Factory that usually does much more for their releases.
Die, Monster, Die is a bit overlong, overstuffed, and sometimes rather boring. Karloff is good in it, doing his usual creepy Karloff thing, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before in a dozen or so better films. The special effects were I guess passable for the time, but the Destro monster at the end is just plain silly no matter how you slice it. Worst of all to Lovecraft lovers is how little Lovecraft flavor you’ll actually find here. That all said, it is still enjoyable and if you’re a fan of 60s shock cinema, or a Karloff completionist, then rejoice for now you can get a copy of this flick looking amazing on Blu-ray.