Die! Die! My Darling!
Mmm mmm mmm! Cheesy B-movie goodness! 1965's Die! Die! My Darling! was one of the rare Hammer films of the period that wasn't a goth-y costume epic instead, it's a modern day, trapped-in-the-basement-by-a-crazy-woman thriller, offering suspense and giggles galore. Screen legend Tallulah Bankhead follows in the footsteps of Bette Davis, Debbie Reynolds, and Shelley Winters by diving into full-on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?/What's the Matter with Helen?/Who Slew Auntie Roo? mode (odd how all of these movies have such emphatic punctuation) as the phenomenally crazy Mrs. Trefoile, a religious nutter who's unable to deal with the death of her only son, David. When David's fiancee Patricia (Stephanie Powers) comes to the house to pay her respects, Mom goes around the bend and locks her in the basement, intending to "cleanse" her then kill her so she can join David in the great beyond. Bankhead takes her cue from other late-in-life stars like Davis, Joan Crawford, and Gloria Swanson who took on scenery-chewing roles with relish, then turns up her performance to eleven, transcending mere campy overacting and achieving a level of histrionics so over-the-top as to be an unadulterated delight. But that's not all Die! Die! has to offer not by a long shot. All crazy geniuses must have a lackey, and Mrs. Trefoile has her retarded groundsman, Joseph played by Donald Sutherland (!) in perfect gibbering, giggling Hammer form. Adding to the fun is Powers as Pat, a woman who is as dumb as a bag of hammers and utterly ineffectual, making her lengthy torture at Mrs. Trefoile's hands more funny than horrific. Director Silvio Narrizzano steals a lot from Hitchcock, and overall this is a much slicker, better looking production that most of Hammer's '60s films. Silly, thrilling, and stylish, it'll bring to mind everything from Psycho to Stephen King's Misery and Carrie (both of which obviously owe a debt to this picture.) Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Die! Die! My Darling! offers a bare-bones disc with a very bright, mostly clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with some dust specks on the source-print overall, though, it's quite good. The monaural Dolby Digital soundtrack is unexceptional but clean and clear. The only extras are trailers for two of Columbia's William Castle DVDs and a TV promo for Strait-Jacket. Keep-case.