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  Die, Monster, Die! A Rocky Problem
Year: 1965
Director: Daniel Haller
Stars: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Suzan Farmer, Freda Jackson, Terence de Marney, Patrick Magee, Leslie Dwyer, Sydney Bromley
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: American Steve Reinhart (Nick Adams) arrives by train in the isolated English town of Arkham with a view to moving on to the Witley House, his destination. However, when he asks a taxi driver to transport him there, he is flatly turned down, and everyone he asks subsequently has the same terse attitude: don't go there, we won't tell you how to get there, leave now. Steve tries to hire a car or bicycle, but gets no further, and has to walk. On his way, he travels over a blasted heath, where the vegetation is in ruins, and eventually he comes to a forest where the house lies, with a warning to keep out hanging on its gates, accompanied by a mantrap. As Steve makes his way along the path, he is dimly aware of being watched by a mysterious figure, and as he reaches the front door, he can't help but wonder what terrible thing has happened here...

Die, Monster, Die was scripted by Jerry Sohl for A.I.P. as a change from all those Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe horrors - this one was an adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft horror instead. Not that you'd notice a massive difference in style, possibly due to Corman's art director on those films, Daniel Haller, being the man in charge here, so the design is very similar with its gothic mansion, slow build up of tension and air of morbid anguish hanging heavily over the proceedings. Lovecraft fans may feel that they have been a little cheated, as the overriding sense of evil does not emanate from some otherwordly source but from one of the ancestors of the Witley family, "the sins of the fathers" as the elderly Nahum Witley (Boris Karloff) observes. Plus, any giant plants or strange beasts are left to a short scene in the greenhouse.

Rest assured, however, there's still a meteorite. When Steve enters the house, he is not afforded a warm welcome by Nahum, who tells him, just as the villagers have done, to leave immediately. But the person who has invited him there is Susan Witley (Suzan Farmer), a girlfriend from college who is delighted to see him and quickly takes him up to meet her mother Letitia (Freda Jackson). More evidence of something sinister afoot is obvious from the state of Letitia who is bedridden and keeps herself hidden from the light and prying eyes by a collection of veils hung around the bedframe of the four-poster. She tells him of the maid, Helga, who took sick of a mysterious illness, went crazy and now stalks the grounds. Letitia doesn't want this happening to Susan, so instructs Steve to take her away from the house before it's too late.

Naturally, they hang around until the chaos is in full effect, but before we get there, a lot of deliberately paced wandering about is in order as Steve tries to piece together the truth of what happened. Although not much different from his well meaning mad scientists of the 1940s, Karloff is solidly cast, never entirely unsympathetic yet not at all trustworthy, and his by now frail, wheelchair-bound appearance suits the character of a man infected by the glowing rock he keeps in the cellar. Adams, on the other hand, is too brash to fit in with the general gloom, and paired with the swooning Farmer the overall impression is more one of Fred and Daphne from Scooby Doo investigating a mystery. The musty atmosphere is well enforced as the house's inhabitants succumb to the meteorite, but there's little flair, it's closer to a trudge to a tragedy that, in an un-Lovecraft-like ending, is safely contained by the climax, despite some loss of life. And Boris shouts "Letitia" so often that you want to say, "bless you" back. Music by Don Banks.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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