Thursday, 2 October 2008

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)

Many ageing Hollywood female stars found new career opportunities in the 1960s playing in horror movies. Two of the best opportunities for such actresses were provided by Hammer Films in 1965, with Bette Davis playing the lead role in The Nanny and Tallulah Bankhead starring in Die! Die! My Darling! (also known as Fanatic).

In Die! Die! My Darling! Stefanie Powers is Patricia, a young woman about to be married. She’d been engaged before, but her fiance had died. Arriving in England she decides it might be a nice thing to do to pay a visit to the mother of her deceased fiance, a Mrs Trefoil. This turns out not to be a good idea after all. The mother (played by Bankhead) is not just a religious fanatic. She’s a religious fanatic who believes that remarriage, even if your spouse has died, is a terrible sin. She also believes that betrothal is the same as marriage in the eyes of the Almighty, and so therefore Patricia was as good as married to her son, and thus has no right to marry anyone else. In fact Patricia is extremely fortunate, since the death of her husband-to-be has spared both of them from the horrors of a physical consummation of the marriage, and they can remain pure for all eternity.

When Patricia doesn’t quite see things in this light the stage is set for a battle of wills, with Mrs Trefoil prepared to go to any lengths at all to save Patricia from the heinous sin she has been contemplating. Bankhead, as you might expect, goes right over-the-top, and she’s superb. Peter Vaughan and Yootha Joyce add extra creepiness to the mix as Mrs Trefoil’s sinister and slightly deranged servants. Powers is in danger of being out-gunned in the acting department, but she gives it her best shot and she’s quite adequate.

This movie has a slightly European feel to it, with a fairly extravagant and very effective use of colour. Director Silvio Narizzano does a fine job, keeping the plot moving along and showing considerable flair while allowing Bankhead every opportunity to overact outrageously. This is another movie that demonstrates the ability of Hammer Films inn its prime to make great contemporary horror chillers as well as their better-known gothic horrors. A terrific movie. The Region 2 DVD lacks extras, but it’s very inexpensive and it looks great.

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