Release Date(s)1965 (January 21, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D-
Die, Monster, Die! is a another case of a movie not living up to its title but still managing to develop a cult following anyway. American International Pictures released the movie in 1965 on a double bill with Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires, but even the presence of Boris Karloff in the movie can’t save it from being not much more than a low grade B movie.
At that time, American International had enjoyed success with Roger Corman’s collaborations with Vincent Price on eight films that derived elements from Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft (The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, and others). They were very successful films with audiences and AIP was looking to cash in even more with the same formula. They hired Daniel Haller as a first time director, who had previously worked as an art director for Roger Corman on the aforementioned Poe films, and adapted the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Colour Out of Space” with Boris Karloff in the lead. The result was a film that was not only an echo of the Corman/Price/Poe formula, but a duplicate entirely.
For all intents and purposes, Die, Monster, Die! (also known as Monster of Terror in the UK) is a blatant ripoff of The Fall of the House of Usher (or House of Usher, if you prefer). Almost all of the elements (story, characters, atmosphere, and location) are taken directly from that film. Unfortunately, the magic that Corman and Price were able to create with Usher did not happen as well with Monster. I firmly believe that the main reason for this is Boris Karloff himself. While he can be used well in certain roles, when he’s cast as Vincent Price-type character, it feels completely out of character for him altogether. He just doesn’t work in that kind of role. The other actors are less than savory, but it’s Karloff who really brings the proceedings to a halt.
The film is also a bit notorious for being unintentionally funny. Karloff’s character being confined to a wheelchair for most of the movie and somehow managing to get up and down flights of stairs with no problem is just the tip of the iceberg. You could even play a drinking game with the movie and take a drink every time Susan’s character says “I don’t know” to any question that’s being asked of her. What the film lacks in story and acting, it makes up for in atmosphere and art direction. It’s unsurprising though, coming from a director whose background is firmly in art direction (as well as designing the look of the Poe films of the past, as previously mentioned). But unfortunately, the ability of Die, Monster, Die! to scare its audience would probably work successfully on someone who’s not so inured by films like it. It’s not an altogether horrible movie, but it never quite succeeds at being a horror movie, and leaves you with an ending that is less than satisfying... but that’s just one fellow’s opinion.
The good news is that fans looking to upgrade from the previous MGM DVD release to Scream Factory’s Blu-ray will be both happy and disappointed I think. The transfer of the film itself is the whole ballgame of this release though. While the print of the film is not very satisfactory, especially in the beginning because of the opening titles and matte paintings, there’s a strong picture on display – once you get past that first five or ten minutes of the film. There’s a strong grain structure with good color reproduction, good skin tones, healthy black levels, and good brightness and contrast. Many shots in the film feature images shot with anamorphic lenses using AIP’s “Colorscope” process of the time, so you’ll notice that many panning shots have a very noticeable fish-eye view to them. Still, as far as the transfer goes, the original aesthetic of the film remains intact. The same goes for the audio, which is an English Mono DTS-HD track. It shows its age, perhaps much more than the video presentation, but it’s represented well here. Dialogue is always clear and audible, and both sound effects and score work well together. They just don’t have any dynamic power to them. So it’s a good soundtrack without being great. There are, unfortunately, no subtitles on this release and no extras, except for the film’s theatrical trailer.
So the idea of picking this Blu-ray release up is whether or not you want to upgrade for higher picture quality. For my money, I would say yes. It’s nice to see a film like this get dusted off with a very good transfer, even if it isn’t stuffed to the brim with extras. It’s also nice for fans to finally have the film in HD. Is it one of my favorites? No. That should’ve been obvious a couple of paragraphs ago, but for fans of the film, this is a nice upgrade.
- Tim Salmons