The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Die! Die! My Darling!

Horror movies are typically pretty hit or miss with me.  One thing drives me nuts more than most though, and that's the ridiculous predicaments the fodder finds themselves in.  At a summer camp where a serial killer is killing all the campers?  LEAVE.  Visiting some creepy house where demons and spirits haunt the place? Get the F out!  Yes, I realize movies would be over 15 or 20 minutes in, but it's those forced situations that drive me up the wall.  Thankfully, a fair share of horror movies force the unwilling participants to stay in some hellish situation...hurricanes, no car, a wounded friend, anything really.  Somewhere in between is 1965's Die! Die! My Darling!

A late candidate for most original title from a movie I've seen this year, 'Darling' is a Hammer films production that suffers from that problem. The premise is interesting, the execution a mixed bag, and the end result a weird movie that I'm not sure what to make of.  A big test though, none of the movie happens if star Stefanie Powers' character realizes how creepy the situation she is in really is and gets the hell out of there.  Makes for a dull movie though, don't you think?

Visiting England with her fiance, Alan (Maurice Kaufmann), Patricia Carroll (Powers) decides to take a detour by herself. Years before, a previous fiance of hers died in a car accident and Patricia wants to visit his family, having never gotten a chance to talk to them face to face.  She plans to be gone no more than a day on the visit, but finds nothing is going to go her way.  Arriving at the house, she meets her former fiance's mother, Mrs. Trefoile (Tallulah Bankhead, no first name provided) who welcomes her with open arms.  But Patricia quickly finds out what a nut Trefoile is but doesn't go along with her gut feeling.  Is she just a religious fanatic still grieving over the loss of her dead son?  Or is it something else, something darker and deeper?  Before she can figure it out and extricate herself, Patricia finds herself in too deep with nowhere to go.

Where to start her with director Silvio Narizzano's horror movie that is more Twilight Zone than a real horror movie. The setting is eerie, the mood creepy, and the sense of imminent danger floating around at all times.  Powers' Patricia should have tucked her tail away and ran like a bat out of hell right away, but a 20-minute movie probably wouldn't make too much money.  Most of the movie takes place in the Trefoile house so you get a feel of being trapped with no outlet. I guess I was just expecting more out of a screenplay from master of horror thrillers Richard Matheson

Bankhead is the runaway star of this quasi-horror flick. Her religious fanaticism is ridiculously over the top, her personal beliefs antiquated even for biblical times, and a hypocritical nature to boot.  A winning trifecta if there ever was.  The character is an epic trainwreck who is clearly loony from the word go, and things get much, much worse before they are ever going to get better.  Whatever crazy stuff's going on in her head though, Bankhead's Mrs. Trefoile clearly has some pull on those around her, including housekeeper and groundskeeper married couple Anna (Yootha Joyce) and Harry (Peter Vaughan) and a dimwitted albino orphan, Joseph (Donald Sutherland) who lives in the house. Bankhead's movie for sure.

I've always had a crush on Stefanie Powers since I saw her in the classic Herbie Rides Again.  I'll basically watch anything she's in.  An underrated actress, Powers gets to show some of her range off here, dialing it back and forth between distressed and terrified with moments of quick thinking and manipulation.  She is certainly easy on the eyes too, which doesn't hurt.

This isn't going to be a long review though simply because the movie isn't particularly bad or good.  The script is lacking something, it's never really scary, and there are just too many plotholes and unanswered questions for it to be anything better than average.  An interesting premise with a decent cast that never amounts to much.

Die! Die! My Darling! <---trailer (1965): **/****

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