Looking Back at Die, Monster, Die!

Earlier, we discussed the first Lovecraftian work to be translated to film: “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” The film was, of course, The Haunted Palace, directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. At that time we made the argument that few, if any,  of the major studio films based on Lovecraft’s writings have successfully translated the author’s vision.

A few years after The Haunted Palace, another film tackled a second Lovecraft classic,  and once again the spirit of Lovecraft was lost to low-budget film-making and a script often bereft of logic and consistency.

Based on “The Colour Out of Space,” the producers decided on the title Die, Monster, Die (the American release) and Monster of Terror (its name in the UK) . Perhaps it was a financial issue, or perhaps they felt the story drifted so far from the original source that it would have been false advertising to keep the name. The screen writer, Jerry Sohl, who had written for The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits television series would return to Lovecraft a few years later for The Crimson Cult, loosely basing it on Lovecraft’s “Dreams In The Witch House” (once more featuring a frail and decrepit Boris Karloff). Note, a much better version of “Dreams in The Witch House” is available in Showtime’s Masters of Horror series, directed by directed by Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame.

Die, Monster, Die (1965) is about a scientist (Neil Adams) who arrives in  lovely Arkham to visit his fiance. The locals, like all townsfolk in Lovecraftian lore, treat him as a to-be shunned outsider. Apparently their lack of social skills is being fueled by what is happening in the desolate countryside around them. His fiance’s father, played painfully by the wonderful Boris Karloff late in his career (he would die three years later)   has discovered a radioactive meteorite capable of mutating plants, animals, and humans, and is keeping it in his basement. Wait, let’s try that again — in his basement.

The beginning of the film seems to work. While the pacing may be a bit slow and the acting a little stilted, the tropes are in the right places and start to establish an eerie atmosphere and a sense of dread. The last part of the film though screeches to a halt as the director seems to hurry things along, perhaps to finish things under budget.

Some will seek the title out on DVD because they are completists and need to be able to say they have seen ALL of the films based on the works of Lovecraft (um—that would be me). Others may watch it because-while it is not a great film-it’s still better than Stan Helsing, and if you’re willing to sit through the one, you should be willing to sit through the other.

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