Sunday, 18 August 2013

Die! Die! My Darling! AKA Fanatic (1965)

One of the more bizarre, and therefore more interesting, movies to be released under the Hammer name, Die! Die! My Darling! feels a bit like something you'd expect to see if Pete Walker and Sergio Martino decided to work together on a movie that then had all of the nudity and bloodshed removed. It's often very stylish, it contains a roster of strange and memorable characters, and most of the highlights revolve around aspects of passion, be it severely repressed or bubbling up to the surface.

Stefanie Powers plays Patricia, a young woman who sets out to visit the mother (Mrs. Trefoile, played by Tallulah Bankhead) of her deceased fiance. When she gets there, she finds a very strange household where no condiments are added to the food, no mirrors are used and make-up is not allowed. Even the colour red is frowned upon. Patricia soon finds herself in trouble, upsetting Mrs. Trefoile and unable to get away as quickly as she would like to.

Written by Richard Matheson, based on the novel by Anne Blaisdell, this is a film more about characters and mood than snappy dialogue. There may not be many memorable lines, but there is great pains taken to develop both the characters and situation.

Powers makes for an appealing lead, her character puts up with a LOT before standing up for herself, and Bankhead is very good as the strict, cold Mrs. Trefoile. Peter Vaughan is good as the lusty Harry, Yootha Joyce does well in the role of Anna and Donald Sutherland puts in an appropriate, but strange, performance as Joseph, a mentally handicapped young man. Maurice Kaufmann may not be onscreen much, as Alan (the current beau of Patricia), but he does just fine.

Director Silvio Narizzano does a good job with the material, keeping everything interesting and entertaining without ever filling out sequences with cheap shocks or gratuitous excesses. The movie walks a fine line between the eerie and the laughably bonkers, and it's to Narizzano's credit that once the film ends it stays in your memory for all the right reasons.

All in all, this is a very good film for fans of the slightly bizarre.


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