There are more mad scientist films to explore as I dig deeper into DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book, and Die, Monster, Die! is the next one up. Which is weird, because I didn’t really notice a scientist in the film.
Based very loosely on H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space, the film plays more like an Edgar Allen Poe story, as only a few of the basic tenets of the original story find their way into the screenplay.
Stephen Reinhart (Nick Adams) arrives in the remote English town of Arkham, where no one will tell him how to get to the Witley estate, to which he’s been invited. It seems a pallor of fear hangs over the village in regards to the Witley manor, and once Stephen makes his way there, he realizes why.
There are bizarre things afoot on the estate, and while Stephen is quite happy to kindle his relationship with Susan (Suzan Farmer). Her father, Nahum (Boris Karloff) is less than thrilled to have him around. It seems a meteorite crashed nearby, giving off a form of radiation that is mutating everything in the immediate area, plants, animals, even people, and it is slowly working its way through the Witley family.
There is a brief hint of something more when Stephen finds a book about the Cult of the Outer Ones, and that is the only real Lovecraftian moment that seems to have survived the adaptation, that and a lot of first names. Instead the film plays to the gothic look of the set, and feels like it has more in line with the Fall of the House of Usher, than the horror of something completely alien as portrayed in Lovecraft’s tale.
Karloff, rolling about in a wheel chair throughout the film seems content to rave wildly, and urge Stephen to leave while he can, but of course Reinhart has to keep prying and passing judgement, because as the American hero he has to be right about everything,
The one scene that viewers no doubt wanted more from, and most assuredly scarred younger viewers at the matinee screenings, is the creature menagerie in the greenhouse. That sequence needed a lot more to it, but it was probably enough to fire up nightmares in the youngsters.
Barely running eighty minutes, there isn’t much to the film to get excited about, it wraps itself in gothic imagery, but never quite embraces either a Poe-like horror, or the Lovecraft text from which it takes its inspiration. And while Susan and Stephen shared a science class, and he says he works in a lab, there’s no real sign of a mad scientist running around in this film.
Still, I had a lot of fun watching it, and it makes me want to revisit the source material. But if you want to watch something macabre tonight, pick up a copy of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies and release your inner ghoul.