Home Video Hovel: Die, Monster, Die!, by Chase Beck
Daniel Haller’s 1965 film, Die, Monster, Die!, (also released as Monster of Terror) is a quintessential, if unimpressive, American International Pictures horror film. Although Roger Corman’s name does not appear anywhere on the film, Haller served as production designer and art director for many of Corman’s film’s based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, including The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and The Mask of the Red Death. It was on those films that Haller learned the filmmaking trade. Die, Monster, Die! was Haller’s first directorial foray. So it is no wonder that it closely mimics Corman’s Poe-inspired works.
Unfortunately, looking like one of Corman’s Poe-films is perhaps the best thing that I can say about Die, Monster, Die!. The story is not complex but it is unnecessarily convoluted. The writer, Jerry Sohl, adapted an H.P. Lovecraft short story, “The Colour out of Space,” which could have been amazing but ends up disappointing (especially when one is familiar with the terrifically eerie source material). In the film, Jerry Sohl did not seem to know whether he wanted the source of the problem to be a Satanic curse, an alien mutagenic agent or radioactive material from outer-space. To Lovecraft, they were one and the same; to Sohl it was the audience’s choice. While certainly far from the best, this is not even the earliest film adaptation of a Lovecraft story. Credit for that goes to Roger Corman who adapted “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” for his film The Haunted Palace (credited to Edgar Allen Poe for the film’s release in a spectacularly convoluted bid for audience attention).
Boris Karloff is in this film. He mostly rolls around in a wheelchair and behaves in a menacing manner. It is not his best performance but neither is it his best role. Interestingly enough, after Die, Monster, Die!, Karloff appeared in Peter Bogdanovich’s first film (which Bogdanovich wrote, produced, and directed), Targets, in which Karloff is often praised for giving a terrific performance.
This Blu-ray transfer for Die, Monster, Die is actually pretty good. While you can tell that the film they used had some scratches and artifacts, in my opinion, it adds to the experience. Perhaps what’s most disappointing is knowing that Shout! Factory (the Blu-Ray production company) could have digitally removed the scratches if they had really wanted to. It would have been easy with today’s technology but perhaps out of the budget for this release. The Blu-ray itself has no extras besides a theatrical trailer. It lacks subtitles and additional audio tracks, which is a real shame because I can think of several Lovecraft enthusiasts who would love to offer their insight into this film, on a commentary track, and would not have any trouble talking for 80 minutes (for very little money, I might add). For example, Huan Vu wrote and directed a fantastic adaptation of “The Colour out of Space” titled Die Farbe in 2010. I have had the privilege of listening to a really fascinating interview with him. Similarly, Andrew Leman directed another Lovecraft short story, “The Call of Cthulhu,” in 2005, Leman and Sean Branney, the screenwriter, would probably be honored to share their experience and relate it to the contents of Die, Monster, Die!. Paul McLean runs the largest website for Lovecraftiana, yog-sothoth.com. He regularly interviews Lovecraft-inspired authors and Lovecraft scholars , including the Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi as well as the original author of the “Call of Cthulhu” role-playing game, Sandy Petersen, who is a bit of a horror movie nut. Any such commentary tracks would undoubtedly add value to this Blu-ray release
If you are a Lovecraft enthusiast, I can think of several other films to buy first. If you need Die, Monster, Die! to complete your collection only then would I consider buying this. Similarly, there are many better films starring Boris Karloff, Frankenstein and The Mummy being the first to come to mind. However, if you need to complete your collection, I have a suspicion that this is the best version of the film that is going to be available for a while. As I have observed from the film itself, missed opportunities and poorly defined goals is what defines Die, Monster, Die!. In that regard, this lackluster Blu-ray release epitomizes the film perfectly.