Friday, April 27, 2012

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)

The original UK title of Die! Die! My Darling! was the less What Ever Happen To Baby Jane-esque "Fanatic", and actually it's a better and harder title, closer to the disturbing subject of the story. Directed for Hammer Films, TV-director Silvio Narizzano seem more used to the confined spaces and the claustrophobic atmosphere than many others and directs here, I think, one of the best Old Psycho Lady-films of the sixties.

Stefanie Powers plays Patricia, an American woman who travels to London to meet her fiancé. But before their wedding she wants to visit the mother of her former boyfriend, who died in a car accident some years earlier. Just to pay respect, you know the deal. Upon arriving to the house of Mrs Trefoile (Tallulah Bankhead) and her staff, Patricia realizes that she's a religious, Christian fanatic, controlling her house with a steady hand. But worst of all, soon Mrs Trefoile understand that Patricia is a sinner - wearing lipstick, perfume, not going to church regularly - and even more horrible: she's not a virgin! Mrs Trefoile decides she want to save Patricia and reunite her with the dead son. All in the name of God!

I can see how someone, somewhere, wanted this movie to be another Baby Jane or Strait-Jacket. Maybe the distributor or some stupid executive producer somewhere, but this is a smarter and darker movie than just a an ordinary rip-off. Bankhead's performance is one of the most twisted and dark I've seen from this period, an woman deeply evil, extremely bitter and to a certain degree insane. She's taken control over her staff, the emotionally fucked-up Anna (Yootha Joyce), her grim husband Harry (Peter Vaughan) and the retarded helper Joseph (Donald Sutherland) - all three brilliant actors. Powers as Patricia is an excellent heroine, fighting back more or less the whole time and the sparks between her and Bankhead is sensational.

It's a pretty violent movie, without being very bloody or graphic. But it's cruel, it's has a cynical atmosphere - an brilliant cat and mouse game of mindfucking deluxe. But make no mistake, there's no doubt who the monster is - this is one of the more anti-christian and anti-religious flicks I've seen including Kevin Smith's Red State (and I know he's a believer himself, but he at least understand that even Christians can be evil). Yeah, I would go so far to say that Die! Die! My Darling! is the Red State of the sixties. From it's theme of religious fantics to the story about kidnapping a non-believer/random ordinary Joe and force Jesus into his head with violence! It's a brave commercial thriller that dares to make the Christianity the bad guy. The only big difference is that Mrs Trefoile is a sinner deep inside, a weak damned sinner.

This is a movie you can watch only for Tallulah Bankhead. She's worthy every prize in the book her. I'm not sure if she had some illness during the time of the shooting, but from time she looks frail and it's not acting. This was also the last movie she made before her death in 1968. After reading up on her a bit I can understand how this part got her interest. She was a born provocateur, always ready for telling people the truth or just fucking with their heads. No surprise she took the role as Mrs. Trefoile with such enthusiasm. I also love how they, almost like in Sunset Boulevard, connected her to her past as a silent movie star. That's also a brave move from her, but not surprisingly it's said she actually disliked her earlier stardom.

Maybe she wanted to poke fun at what she once was?


Anonymous said...

Yeah...Tallulah Bankhead was petty fucked up. Rumor has it that she was a cocaine addict for many years.....but she did deliver as an actress.

Check out Hitchcocks Lifeboat (1944)...if you haven´t already seen it.

kochillt said...

Tallulah Bankhead, like Jean Harlow, never wore underwear, and when she did LIFEBOAT for Hitchcock, and had to climb up a ladder to reach the studio mockup of a boat, she virtually assured the crew a spectacular view. When word reached the director, he famously responded: "I don't know if this is a problem for wardrobe or hairdressing!"