Monday, October 22, 2007

die monster die

Well, I can't say that things are specifically going any better than they were last week, or the week before, but at the very least they're starting to feel better, or at the very very least I am starting to feel better, so that's something. I've never had the sunniest of dispositions, but lately I guess it's just getting easier to put things in perspective, or keep things in perspective, and just generally getting by even when the stress is on. And maybe, just maybe, there's that inkling of positive things going on, new horizons and all of that. So, you know, hope springs eternal, or whatever. Ok, I'm embarrassed now. My apologies for the momentary self-indulgence.

Last night's movie was "Die Monster Die," from 1965, directed by Daniel Haller for American International Pictures. Though Roger Corman had nothing to do with this film, his influence is all over it. Haller was the production designer and/or art director on numerous Corman films, and "Die, Monster, Die" is basically just a riff on Corman's Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, only based, very loosely (I can only assume, since I've never read it), on an H.P. Lovecraft story. As in most of Corman's Poe films, a stranger arrives at a secluded mansion populated by an eccentric family with a dangerous secret. His intention is to marry the family's daughter, but the family patriarch tries to send him away. The stranger refuses and gets caught up in the family secret, which ultimately leads to the patriarch's demise. In this case, the secret has something to do with aliens and space radiation. There are even some super creepy octopus monsters, and also people with gross mutated faces.

There are some definitely advantages to having a production designer direct your movie, as "Die, Monster, Die" looks pretty good. It was shot on location in England, which of course gives the scenario a greater sense of authenticity, though it lacks the surreal quality found in Corman's often dreamlike Poe films. There are a few impressive sets, though, particularly the giant crater where the space meteor or whatever it was landed, and parts of the creepy family mansion.

Then there's the cast, best thing of all about "Die, Monster, Die." As the family patriarch, you have Boris Karloff. Do I even have to say how much I love Boris Karloff? It's ironic that he gained his fame playing a grunting monster, since he had such an amazing voice, like finely spun silk with tiny barbs in it, flowing like warm honey, soothing and enveloping, yet full of mystery and menace, compassion, and despair. Karloff's voice was absolutely perfect to the note. He certainly had a unique physical presence as well, on display here as the then-aged Karloff still manages to move quite gracefully when needed, but that voice...

As the American stranger, there's Nick Adams. A decent actor in and of himself, Adams personal story was more interesting at times than his work on the screen. He was friends with both James Dean and Elvis, and is rumored to have had affairs with both or either. After some TV success in the 1950s and early 1960s, Adams' career stalled for whatever reason (possibly in part because he picked up a pill habit from his days of hanging with Elvis). He went abroad to Japan and did a few films for Toho, including "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero." In 1968, three years after "Die Monster Die," he was found dead in his home of a drug overdose. Whether it was a suicide, accident or even possibly murder remains unknown.

Also in the cast is Patrick Magee. I've sung Magee's praises before in my reviews of the Amicus anthology pictures. He's great here but appears far too briefly as a burned out ex-doctor. In general, "Die Monster Die" had some cool things to offer but even at under an hour and a half, it's kind of dull, or at least kind of uninvolving. Perhaps it's just that similar material was so often handled by Corman so well that in the hands of the less directorially experienced Haller it couldn't help but feel a little bit...already done. Anyway, you can't win 'em all. Still, Karloff...

Check back tomorrow for more films and comics.

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