Die! Die! My Darling!

      Comments Off on Die! Die! My Darling!

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965) was the great Tallulah Bankhead’s final film but it was also one of the late Donald Sutherland’s first films. Sutherland’s early career in British horror films is often an overlooked chapter in the actor’s illustrious career. Sutherland, who passed away on June 20th, starred in some of my favorite films such as Don’t Look Now, 1900, The Dirty Dozen and Casanova. But instead of revisiting any of those four films I opted for Die! Die! My Darling! which I have only seen once before.

Even in Die! Die! My Darling! the promise of performances to come is already apparent in Sutherland’s work as the simpleton Joseph. It’s a role with very few lines that Sutherland still manages to make charming and sympathetic. Joseph isn’t the deranged and creepy simpleton that Sid Haig would have played. Joseph is a childlike innocent caught up in the diabolical schemes of Ms. Bankhead.

It speaks to the quality of Die! Die! My Darling! that even a small part like that of Donald Sutherland as Joseph is memorable. Die! Die! My Darling! is an effective little thriller from Hammer Films directed by Silvio Narizzano. This moody thriller follows Patricia (Stefanie Powers) who goes to visit the mother of her deceased fiancé, Mrs. Trefoile (Bankhead), to share the news that she is to marry a new beau. However, once at the Trefoile house, Patricia finds herself a prisoner.

Die! Die! My Darling! boasts a wholly committed and unhinged performance from Bankhead. Her character is a religious nut and she barks or growls lines like “the Bible speaks of our vile bodies” or “the Devil’s entertainment”. Bankhead carries the film with bravado. Even with notable supporting cast members like Sutherland and Peter Vaughan Die! Die! My Darling! belongs to Bankhead.

Mrs. Trefoile believes that she must “save” Patricia and terrorizes her to that end. Religious fervor is the horror of the day in Die! Die! My Darling!. When Bankhead goes on manically about sin and righteousness while brandishing a knife or pistol the lighting changes. Suddenly the frame is awash with greens and violets. Narizzano thrusts the viewer into the dangerous world of Mrs. Trefoile this way.

Yet, no number of great performances or stellar direction can compensate for a flimsy and repetitious script. Die! Die! My Darling! repeats itself a number of times as if it were padding itself out for a longer run time. A number of scenes could be cut and it would only help to heighten the suspense that the film seems to be going for.

As it is, one comes for Donald Sutherland and stays for Tallulah Bankhead. It’s the acting in this Hammer Horror entry that makes the film watchable and engaging. From Sutherland’s childish mutterings of “pretty…pretty” to Vaughan’s creepy assault Die! Die! My Darling! has all the makings of a classic horror film. If only the screenplay were as assured and committed as Tallulah Bankhead.