Die, Monster, Die! (1965)

*. I believe this is the first of what would be many films inspired by the H. P. Lovecraft story “The Colour Out of Space.” It’s usually considered to be a very free interpretation, but as far as Lovecraft movies go I think it’s par for the course. Most Lovecraft movies have only the slightest connection to their source, and basically pretend they’re doing Poe, as here. But there would be other adaptations of “The Colour Out of Space” that would go far further afield than this.
*. Of course there had to be some changes. The hardscrabble Massachusetts farm nobody would want to visit is transplanted to a more cinematic Arkham in England, where it has become a ginormous manor house. They kept the meteorite with its curious radioactive properties that lead to mutation, madness, and degeneration, but introduced a pair of young lovers of the kind that the rather repressed H. P. would never countenance.
*. The young male lead is played by Nick Adams. I thought this name had to be a nod to Hemingway but it’s actually derived from his birth name of Nicholas Aloysius Adamschock. He was a friend of James Dean, and starred as Johnny Yuma in the television series The Rebel (a show I never saw and I’m certain I never will). He died of a drug overdose only a few years after this film was made. I don’t know what he was like as Johnny Yuma but he’s awful here.
*. It was given a lot of titles both generic and silly (at the same time). One working title was The House at the End of the World (or even The Monster in the House at the End of the World). In the UK it was released as, drum roll . . . Monster of Terror.
*. As far as Die, Monster, Die! goes, I love the punctuation but it carries a sense of urgency the film itself never rises to, while leaving it unclear who or what the monster is. I suppose they mean the transformed Nahum Witley, but he doesn’t have much screen time and the title suggests to me a greater level of exasperation than is experienced by anyone.
*. The proceedings are even more generic than the title. It was an AIP release, shot at Shepperton, and looks it. Andrew Migliore and John Strysik, in their guide to the cinema of Lovecraft Lurker in the Lobby, call the movie a “textbook example of the walking-around-endlessly-in-a-big-house school of filmmaking.” That just about sums it up for me as well.
*. It’s hard to overstate just how familiar all this is. When our hero gets off the train in Arkham and asks around town to see if he can get a ride to the Witley place everyone cuts him dead. Once he arrives and begins walking around the big house he sees scary portraits of Witley ancestors, encounters decaying women hiding behind veils, spies creepy figures peering into windows, is surprised by skeletons swinging out of closets, and survives killers smashing through locked doors. The monster in the end crashes through a banister and falls to his death, leaving the heroes to barely escape from the burning house. How many times have you seen this movie?
*. There’s just nothing here that’s interesting. Yes, there’s Boris Karloff, but he’s a bore stuck in a wheelchair. The effects are terrible. Lovecraft is scarcely a presence. The only part I enjoyed was the zoo of mutated creatures kept in the (huge) storage closet in the greenhouse. They were amusing. And seeing as they weren’t in the house when it burned down, maybe they survived. That’s all I was left with at the end.

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