Sunday, September 19, 2010

DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! (Silvio Narizzano, 1965)

A cat and mouse game played in the confines of an Victorian mansion, as a young femme feline is hounded by religious dogma. Richard Matheson adapts Anne Blaisdell’s novel NIGHTMARE but embellishes the story with his palsied humor ripe with pre-marital strife, a union falling to pieces before it even joins in holy matrimony.

Patricia decides to visit to her ex-fiancé’s mother-in-law, to pay her final respects to the memory of the man she once loved, to ease the suffering of a woman who has lost both a son and potential daughter. Pat is a fiery American Girl, raised on promises and the spirit of independence, whose vexing relationship with her new lover is apparent from the outset: Patricia takes accelerates towards her fateful destination. She soon learns that Mrs. Trefoile (a wonderfully zany and overwrought performance from Tallulah Bankhead) is a religious nut who has finally cracked, surrounding herself with servants who exploit her madness in hopes of an inheritance, with a minor appearance of Donald Sutherland as Joseph, a mentally challenged handyman.

The film can be read as a treatise on religion when scripture supersedes law and human rights, whether screeched by the extremist or preached by the conservative. Mrs. Trefoile condemns the wicked Patricia because she isn’t pure and has tainted her son’s everlasting soul, and locks her up until she can be spiritually cleansed. The story also becomes a conflict between beauty and the beast: in other words, youth and old age. Patricia is forbidden from wearing makeup and wearing red (the Devil’s color) so she can be a sexless form of clay and mud. But Mrs. Trefoile was once a refined beauty, revealed in her secret room dominated by a painting of her deceased son, painted shortly before his death. Patricia attempts escape after escape and is never willing to compromise her life, and spends most of the film in bondage, slapped around, and verbally abused. Mrs. Trefoile does god’s work and punishes her perverted servant, and suffers the consequences of trusting a backstabbing maid.


Final Grade: (B)

4 comments:

  1. Been looking forward to your take on this one with pleasure--nice job. I love how the film has an extra twist in that Mrs. Trefoile is not only a religious FANATIC (the film's original British title), but also a religious hypocrite, since this woman preaching about sin obviously had a more than maternal attraction to her son.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you! I don't know if the 'twist" was original to the souce novel but Matheson's influence bleeds through the narrative: love it!

    I can't wait for your book to guide me through Matheson's film work (to my faithful readers, pre-order Matt's book: link on left side!). I wish he would have worked more with Hammer, and I read that the studio had optioned I AM LEGEND but couldn't get it past British censors. It could have been a wonderful marriage of talents but the two gems (this one & THE DEVIL RIDES OUT) are classics.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's exactly right: Matheson adapted the novel in 1958 for a proposed Hammer version to be directed by Val Guest and called THE NIGHT CREATURES (a title they later recycled); that script can be found in his collection VISIONS DEFERRED. But the censors on both sides of the Atlantic warned that if filmed as written, it would be banned, so Hammer sold it to sometime U.S. distributor Robert L. Lippert, and after various rewrites it wound up as THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. The good news is that producer Anthony Hinds, then familiar with Matheson's work, hired him for FANATIC and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, although Richard was puzzled by the fact that they hired Robert Bloch to adapt his story "Girl of My Dreams" for their TV series JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN, rather than having him do it himself. Thanks again for promoting the book so enthusiastically!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the great info Matt: I need to track down GIRL OF MY DREAMS on dvd!

    ReplyDelete