The first thing I marvelled at regarding Die! Die! My Darling! (aka Fanatic) was the frankly amazing cast. Stephanie Powers, Donald Sutherland, Yootha Joyce and Tallulah Bankhead. That is one hell of a roll call. And what makes it even better is that the film makes every actor step out of their comfort zone and show that they can actually act. And they do a brilliant job. The film is also made by the Hammer Studios, another sign that this is going to be fantastic. And it is.
The film concerns Patricia Carroll (Powers) who arrives in London and decides to visit the mother (Mrs Trefoile played by Bankhead) of the man she was due to marry but who killed himself. Carroll has moved on with her life since then and is in London to marry someone else. On visiting the devoutly religious matriarch, she is forced to stay in Trefoile’s secluded abode against her will and locked in. Mrs Trefoile has domestic staff who aid her in ensuring that Patricia doesn’t leave or get help (Joyce without her trademark blonde hair and Sutherland playing a mentally disadvantaged albino!)
This is such a terrific film. I love its pessimism with every step Patricia takes to either escape or try to get someone to rescue her failing spectacularly. In fact, this level of pessimism reminded me of George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
The cast really is playing against type with their characters too. Bankhead is far from the glamourpuss she is in most of her films, Joyce’s character couldn’t be more removed from her character of Mildred in Man About The House and George & Mildred. Here she’s a raven-haired domestic help and sadist. She’s utterly convincing. Sutherland is frankly astonishing in his role as the mentally disadvantaged albino gardener. I love how Joyce’s character appears to be unsure in some scenes regarding her allegiances to Mrs Trefoile and that the groundsman is shown shooting tin cans that he has attached pictures of Trefoile to. Before he is bumped off by her that is.
I also loved the look of the film with the greys and beiges of the majority of Mr Trefoile’s abode but the opulence and colour of the one room in which all of the artefacts from her past are including the huge portrait of her dead son.
Mrs Trefoile reminded me of Mrs Voorhees in the first Friday the 13th film but also reminded me of Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Her performance really is one of those turns which is delightfully demented. You can tell Bankhead relished playing it.
4 stars out of 5