Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)
"Sacrifices. It is necessary to make sacrifices. Sometimes, it's the only way."- Mrs. Trefoile (Tallulah Bankhead)
Stars: Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Maurice Kaufman, Peter Vaughan, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland
Director: Silvio Narizzano
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, intense situations)
Run Time: 01h:36m:12s
Release Date: 2003-08-12
DVD ReviewFor a while during the 1960s, it seemed de rigueur for aging screen divas to take a stab at low-budget horror films. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford started the trend with the enormously successful shocker What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, a campy look at the depraved existence of two former movie queens. The film revived their careers (and bank accounts) and inspired other fifty-ish actresses, such as Olivia de Havilland and Barbara Stanwyck, to follow suit. Even the camera shy Tallulah Bankhead, who hadn't made a film in thirteen years, jumped at the chance to star in the British-made and irresistibly titled Die! Die! My Darling!
A product of Hammer Films, which churned out dozens of lurid thrillers in the '50s and '60s, Die! Die! My Darling! seems pretty tame by today's standards, but remains an enjoyable novelty due to the over-the-top story, scenery-chewing performances, and Gothic trimmings. Bankhead has a ball as Mrs. Trefoile, a prim, eccentric widow who's really a wacko religious fanatic tormented by her only son's tragic death. When his former fiancée, Patricia Carroll (Stefanie Powers), comes to pay her respects at the dilapidated and conveniently isolated family homestead, Mrs. Trefoile vows to cleanse the heathen woman and prepare her for a happily-ever-afterlife with her dead son.
Patricia initially humors the demanding old biddy, wiping off her makeup, wearing muted colors and attending lengthy Bible readings along with the creepy house staff, a trio of kooks who look like they just leapt out of a Charles Addams cartoon. (Among the bunch is a young Donald Sutherland, in only his fourth film, as the Igor-like gardener.) Patricia plans a simple overnight stay, but Mrs. Trefoile believes the transformation from sinner to saint requires an extended visit. So she locks Patricia in an upstairs bedroom and denies her nourishment while she tries to bully her into submission.
Director Silvio Narizzano (Georgy Girl) wisely adopts a lighthearted tone, allowing his actors to relax, and relish their ridiculous material. Although he maintains a modicum of tension throughout, Die! Die! My Darling! produces little edge-of-the-seat suspense. This is funhouse horror, where the ghouls amuse rather than frighten and funny moments far outnumber the jolts. Along these lines, astute viewers will spot a good-natured nod to Hitchcock's Psycho, as Narizzano copies a couple of the master's signature moments. (Look for a swinging ceiling lamp illuminating a dead body and watch how Mrs. Trefoile is finally foiled in the cellar.)
The film is rife with delightfully devilish images, from Bankhead reading the Bible while holding Powers at gunpoint to caretaker Harry (Peter Vaughan) taking target practice at Bankhead's old 1930s glamour shots. The bittersweet photos recall Bankhead's striking beauty, but also brutally highlight the mere shell that remains. The irony was not lost on the witty Bankhead, who during production reportedly quipped, "They used to shoot Shirley Temple through gauze. They should shoot me through linoleum."
Patricia is refreshingly spunky and defiant, never withering in the face of Mrs. Trefoile's threats and cruelty. The two produce entertaining fireworks, with Powers nicely blending fury with amazement over Mrs. Trefoile's bizarre actions. Bankhead, however, is all business and looks like she's gunning for Oscar® gold with her no-holds-barred performance. Her trademark raspy voice (at times unintelligible) caresses each line and she waves around an antique pistol with irreverent glee. It's almost as if Bankhead knows Die! Die! My Darling! will be her swansong (it was), and she's determined to go out with a grand old bang (she did).
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Thanks to high-definition remastering and the preservation of its original aspect ratio, Die! Die! My Darling looks spectacular on DVD, with a clear, crisp image, decent contrast, and moments of beautifully saturated color. The lush treatment lends the movie a big budget look that's far removed from its working class roots, and while the digital doctoring doesn't erase the ravages of time, Columbia has helped smooth out the rough edges by supplying a relatively clean source print. Specks and surface debris still often intrude—more so during the film's second half—but never enough to dampen enjoyment. Light grain appears throughout, but only adds to the film's sinister atmosphere. Bankhead's pasty face and Powers' auburn locks are well rendered, and all the sharp details give the film a more immediate feel, which helps heighten the suspense.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: For center channel mono, the soundtrack is surprisingly rich and detailed. Dialogue dominates and is easily understood (except when garbled by Bankhead), and the music score swells and punctuates the action without distortion. Pops and hiss are completely absent.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mr. Sardonicus
2 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Review: One amusing trailer for shock (or schlock) master William Castle's Mr. Sardonicus (which employed the unique gimmick of allowing the audience to decide the villain's fate), a TV spot for Joan Crawford's axe-cellent thriller Strait-Jacket and a brief (but hysterical) teaser for Homicidal comprise the paltry extras. Too bad Powers, Vaughan and Sutherland weren't reunited for what would have been an enlightening—and probably priceless—commentary track.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsFans of demented divas, low-budget chillers and high camp will surely love Die! Die! My Darling! With a terrific high-definition transfer and a riveting performance by the great Tallulah Bankhead, this very guilty pleasure is certainly worth a late-night rental.
David Krauss 2003-08-24