MGM Studios DVD presents
Die Monster Die!/The Dunwich Horror (1965/1970)
"Dunwich, Dr. Armitage, might appear to you as just another small town."- Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell)
Stars: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell
Other Stars: Suzan Farmer, Freda Jackson, Patrick Magee, Paul Farrell, Ed Begley, Lloyd Bochner, Sam Jaffe, Talia Coppola, Jack Pierce, Joanna Moore Jordan, Toby Russ
Director: Daniel Haller
Manufacturer: Sunset Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 02h:48m:13s
Release Date: 2005-09-20
DVD ReviewDirector Daniel Haller did a lot of television work (The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Matlock) later in his career, but horror fans remember him best as the man behind a pair of respectable American International H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, both of which are collected here by MGM as a double bill. 1965s Die Monster Die! and 1970s The Dunwich Horror were effectively spooky back then for their own separate reasons, and both films have managed to retain a moody charm over the years, no doubt due the undeniable darkness of Lovecraft's storytelling (even if it gets muddied a little here and there).
Die Monster Die! (1965)
Also known as Monster of Terror, this one is based on Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, and stars the great Boris Karloff as Nahum Witley, a wheelchair-bound scientist rolling around a creepy old haunted house in the town of Arkham. The genre-friendly Nick Adams steps in as the heroic Stephen Reinhart, who arrives in Arkham to track down his fiancee Susan, played with an innocent tight blouse appeal by Suzan Farmer. There's a lot of disparate weirdness going in this one, with strange meteorites, unfriendly villagers, giant vegetables and mutated people all creeping in and out of the narrative that is perhaps a bit hard to follow (meaning it doesn't really make sense), but that is immensely watchable anytime Karloff rolls onscreen.
All of the faults of the Jerry (Curse of the Crimson Altar) Sohl screenplay that sadly diddle Lovecraft's original story get swept under the rug due to Karloff's presence, and he shows that at nearly 80 years old he could still carry a horror film, even if the storyline got fuzzy. American International—never known to spend any substantial sums of money to make a film—get the look of the haunted house spot on here, and Haller lets it radiate with a shadowy, atmospheric hipness.
Maybe not the most faithful or logical Lovecraft adaptation ever put to film, but Karloff is the selling point here.
The Dunwich Horror (1970)
Not as strong visually as Die Monster Die!, but definitely somewhat of a more stable adaptation is Haller's version of The Dunwich Horror. Dean Stockwell, in a neat 1970s porn star perm, is Wilbur Whateley, who just happens to be a little less than human. On a visit to the Arkham Miskatonic University he dives right into a copy of The Necromonicon, and also sets his sights on the naive cuteness of Sandra Dee, here in the role of student librarian Nancy Wagner. There's standard issue Lovecraft talk of resurrecting "The Old Ones", and Wilbur lures virginal young Nancy away where she eventually gets strapped to a sacrificial altar, and the only one that can save her is wise old Dr. Armitage, played by Ed Begley assisted by Lloyd Bochner in shoddy old man makeup.
I know this one has gotten beat up over the years as another weak Lovecraft adaptation, but I've always enjoyed this particular film as a decent treatment with a developing sense of dread. Perhaps some of the POV effects do look a little cheesey during the final act, but Haller achieved a great bit of casting by putting former Gidget Dee as the damsel in distress, even culling a nude scene for her that makes Stockwell's Son of Satan seem all the more evil. Plus there's a nice coda that today would have heralded a sequel.
Both of these films have been issued before separately, but MGM has budget-priced this double bill making it an easy find for well under $15. Well worth it, if you ask me.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Both Haller films get the anamorphic widescreen treatment, with Die Monster Die! showing up in 2.35:1 and The Dunwich Horror in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Die Monster Die! has a quite a bit of specking throughout, and the level of detail is rather soft, but colors and fleshtones appear very solid and natural, especially considering the vintage of this title. The print for The Dunwich Horror is noticeably cleaner, though grain is more pronounced here, but the image is substantially sharper than Die Monster Die!, though there is some flicker in spots. Colors look consistently bright, as do fleshtones.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Both films have been issued in no frills mono (available in English or French), and the quality is within acceptable limits, though neither are particularly robust. Of the two films, Die Monster Die! seems a bit flatter, but dialogue on both is consistently discernible and clean.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: This two-sided disc houses one film per side, with each cut into 16 chapters, and the original theatrical trailers are included also. Optional subtitles are available in French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsDirector Daniel Haller gets showcased in a nifty double-bill of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired films, presented here by MGM on a two-sided disc as part of their budget Midnite Movies banner. It's not often you get Boris Karloff and Sandra Dee showing up on the same DVD, even if it's two different films.
Rich Rosell 2006-03-09