I do love the old American International Pictures films from the 1960s. Many of them were directed by Roger Corman, starred Vincent Price, and were based on Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft stories. What did AIP do when they couldn't rely on Corman or Price to head up one of these moneymaking projects? They replaced them with other reliable talent like Boris Karloff and Set Designer / first time Director Daniel Haller.
The outcome of this pairing was 1965's strange mix of sci-fi paranoia and classic haunted house themes entitled "Die, Monster, Die!" Imagine a 1950's space invader film like "The Quartermass Xperiment" and "The Thing" colliding with the setting of "The Haunted Palace." Thanks to Scream Factory it's now preserved in high-definition for thousands of new fans to discover and embrace.
An American scientist (Nick Adams) is summoned to the secluded estate of his fiancée (Suzan Farmer). Her home sits on the edge of a crater in the center of a countryside devastated by what appears to be fire. Upon arriving, he is met by the woman's embittered and secretive father (Boris Karloff). After he's urged by his girlfriend's sickly mother (Freda Jackson) to take her as far away as possible, he begins investigating the mysteries surrounding the old house and its devastated grounds.
"Die, Monster, Die!" is presented in 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1). This creates a strange fish-lens effect at the edge of the picture at times. I found it drew my eyes away from the action happening onscreen and distracted me from the story. However, this can't be blamed on Scream Factory. The only other element of note is that the video upgrade gives the picture a clarity which exposes the use of a matte painting for a large crater.
It would be nice to get a 5.1 surround sound boost for "Die, Monster, Die!" Scream Factory provides us with a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix instead. It's adequate enough to immerse the viewer in the enigmatic atmosphere the film works hard to create. Every shrill scream and cacophonic crescendo of the musical score will keep you in a state of tension.
Special features for "Die, Monster, Die!" are limited to a trailer. I expected there to be some press footage or maybe even a short featurette with film archivists or someone of note speaking about the making of the movie and the cultural impact it's had. They could've just interviewed a member of the Misfits about how influential it was. The band has a song named after it.
"Die, Monster, Die!" is not rated. There are some rather graphic and gory death scenes which would merit a PG rating now. They're not going to freak out anyone who's used to the realistic effects of today. However, they quite possibly could frighten children.
Although not directly related to the storyline, I found "Die, Monster, Die's" use of Biblical and religious elements fascinating. The mother talks quite openly about the sins of the father coming down on the son. She also states that one can be a man of strong faith and lose it only to become a tool of the Devil.
In hindsight, "Die, Monster, Die!" is a unique little film that isn't what it appears to be from the get-go. Screenwriter Jerry Sohl and Director Haller did their best to lead audiences in one direction before banging them over the head in the climax of the movie with a twist on the haunted house genre. It suffers a little from pacing, but one could almost explain that away to the era it was made in. People didn't demand such quick delivery in the 1960s and 1970s.
"Die, Monster, Die!" is available now on Blu-ray.