Film review by Jason Day of Die, Die My Darling! The Hammer horror film about a young woman held captive by the psychotic mother of her deceased fiancee. Starring Stefanie Powers and Tallulah Bankhead.
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During a visit to England, young American Patricia (Stefanie Powers) pays a visit to the elderly Mrs Trefoile (Tallulah Bankhead), the mother of her former fiancee, who died some time before. A religious fundamentalist, Mrs Trefoile is obsessed with her late son’s memory and sees Patricia as the last living link to his memory, a memory that she will do anything to keep good and pure.
Review, by Jason Day
This film is shit. Can you turn it off?
Admittedly, not the most positive feedback for a film I have screened. But at least my friend echoed the feelings of its star Tallulah Bankhead, the illustrious stage and occasional film actress whose movie swan song it proved to be: “(its) a piece of shit” said Tallu.
I watched this camp slice of nonsense with a pal who, like me, shares an appreciation of the wild comments and wilder ways of theatrical grande dame Bankead. Here, at age 63 and without a hint of movie hair or make-up assistance, she showed no sign of letting up, frequently turning up on set as pissed as a Lord.
Part of the fun with Die, Die My Darling! (or Fanatic as it was known in the states) is spotting when the editors were unable to cut around this. Keep your eyes peeled as Tallu totters about and slurs her words more than once.
Her on-set behaviour has passed into legend; after the film had wrapped, Tallu was called back into the studio to re-dub a single line of dialogue. Wasted on booze, it took the sound editor eight hours to sober her up and record that one line.
Its the kind of true story that would make a great play. And it did, Looped starring the late, great Valerie Harper, premiered in 2010. (If you are wondering what line it is: “And so, Patricia, as I was telling you, that deluded rector has in literal effect closed the church to me…”). Incidentally, Powers replaced Harper on stage when the latter succumbed to cancer.
Bankhead’s famously husky voice spoke better dialogue than the mediocre, random collection of words she has here. Rising above her embarrassment, she none the less gives as fun and dementedly spirited turn that the material and director allow her.
Its all over-acting though and her embarrassing over the top style is mimicked to varying degrees of success by the rest of the cast.
Powers is the most timid young strip of a thing, pathetically clawing at her jailers and showing not a shred of common sense when attempting her escapes that one almost wishes she would expire.
A young Donald Sutherland slums it as the retarded handy-man. Peter Vaughan (Game Of Thrones) as the lustful husband of housekeeper Yootha Joyce likewise debases himself.
Canadian director Narizzano, after a TV career, was the untested hand making his cinematic debut here and who must take most of the blame for the uneven, slow to start and ultimately hysterical feel of the film. A nonsensical set-up, poor pacing and amateur performances from a usually talented and professional case all conspired to keep the film in post-production long after the clapper boards had been hung up.
Although here is is obvious he is unable to create even the slightest bit of tension or induce anything even approaching shocks and scares, Narizzano has created with his technical team a quite beautiful looking film. The finished result has the crisp, pastel colours of a Hannah Barbera cartoon, or an episode of the 1960’s series Batman, which Bankhead starred in as The Black Widow. As Bankhead descends further into madness, ghoulish greens are used when she attacks (for the umpteenth time) Powers in her basement/shrine.
Its not much when recommending a movie but its something and at least Bankhead is supremely enjoyable throughout, darlings.
Cast & credits
Director: Silvio Narizzano. 94 mins. Hammer. (15)
Producer: Anthony Hinds.
Writer: Richard Matheson.
Camera: Arthur Ibbetson.
Music: Wilfred Josephs.
Sets: Peter Proud.
Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland, Maurice Kauffman.