Fanatic aka Die! Die! My Darling! (1964) reviews and overview

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[Total: 13   Average: 3.2/5]

‘The ultimate in stabbing suspense! The intimate in shear shock!

Fanatic is a 1964 British horror thriller feature film about a young American woman being terrorised by a religiously obsessed old woman. In the USA, it was released by Columbia Pictures as Die! Die! My Darling!

Directed by Canadian Silvio Narizzano from a screenplay penned by American writer Richard Matheson (Duel; The Legend of Hell House; The Devil Rides Out; et al) based on a novel by Anne Blaisdell, the Hammer Films production stars Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers (Crescendo), Peter Vaughan (Symptoms; Straw Dogs), Yootha Joyce (The Night Digger; Burke & Hare), Maurice Kaufmann and Donald Sutherland. It was produced by Anthony Hinds.

The quirky soundtrack score was composed Wilfred Josephs (The Uncanny; Dark Places; Cry of the Banshee; The Deadly Bees).

Plot:

A young American woman, Patricia Carroll (Stephanie Powers), arrives in England to marry her lover Alan Glentower (Maurice Kaufmann).

Before tying the knot, however, Patricia pays a visit to Mrs Trefoile (Tallulah Bankhead), the mother of her deceased fiancé Stephen, who died in an automobile accident several years earlier.

Mrs Trefoile resides in a secluded house on the edge of a village named Letchmore Heath. She is fanatically religious and it soon becomes apparent that she blames Patricia for her son’s death.

Indeed, when Patricia reveals to her that she never actually intended to marry Stephen, Trefoile enlists the aid of her servants, Harry (Peter Vaughn) and Anna (Yootha Joyce), in holding Patricia captive so she can exorcise the young woman’s soul…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“What doesn’t seem natural at all is the way Die, Die, My Darling! lurches between comedy and horror, and this is probably the movie’s most serious failing […] director Silvio Narizzano fumbles the transition between emotional polarities in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting


[Tallulah Bankhead’s] …maniacal intensity is comic, camp, and surprisingly effective. Stefanie Powers, who underplays her role, is a great contrast as the puzzled and then terrified Pat. This movie is a must-see for all lovers of camp horror movies or fans of the memorable Tallulah Bankhead.” AllMovie

” …it seems to have plenty of movie references, both ones that it took from others such as the swinging lightbulb from Psycho and the small store that surely must have influenced Peter Jackson for Braindead. This one may have an outrageous B movie title, but it’s definitely A list material.” Apocalypse Later


“Matheson’s script is more tightly constructed than Sangster’s often gimmicky stories and the characters are given psychological depths which amplify both suspense and audience involvement. Bankhead, Powers and Joyce seize every opportunity to breathe life (and often subtle humour) into their roles.” Cagey Films

“Richard Matheson’s screenplay takes it’s time building the suspense, slowly ratcheting things tighter and tighter for poor Pat until the final frightening crescendo […] This was his only foray into ‘Grand Dame Guignol’ territory, and it’s one of the genre’s best.” Cracked Rear Viewer


” …Silvio Narizzano does a capable job with the Richard Matheson script, injecting camp, black humor and several instances of surprising bloodshed (red paint Hammer blood that is). His use of colored lighting in several scenes is reminiscent of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath, and one sequence is a direct homage to Psycho which every one will easily recognize.” DVD Drive-In

” …it’s okay when she’s [Tallulah Bankhead] terrorizing the heroine, but when the movie starts digging into her psyche and tries to garner some sympathy for her, her performance gets in the way. I think it works best at the beginning before the heroine is made a prisoner; it has a nice sense of humor up to that point.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings


“Director Silvio Narizzano does a good job with the material, keeping everything interesting and entertaining without ever filling out sequences with cheap shocks or gratuitous excesses. The movie walks a fine line between the eerie and the laughably bonkers, and it’s to Narizzano’s credit that once the film ends it stays in your memory for all the right reasons.” For It Is Man’s Number

“If you love campy hag-horror this one has it in spades as the puritanical lunatic attempts to brainwash/purify the 60’s-era liberated young woman.” McBastard’s Mausoleum

The British Film Institute’s Monthly Film Bulletin review said: “Though uneven in tone (to put it mildly), this piece of extravagance is at least consistently enjoyable … One suspects here a laudable determination in Miss Bankhead not to be outdone by Bette Davis’ Baby Jane. Still, why cavil? There is enough here to give horror addicts a field day on various levels.”


“Intoning ominous phrases in the rich, throaty style for which she is noted, our villainess is determined to keep Miss Powers captive and eventually dispatch her for her sins. Before Miss Powers’s present fiancé arrives to save the day, a little gore has been spilled, Miss Bankhead has been eliminated and precious little sense has been made.” The New York Times, May 20th 1965

“Yeah, I would go so far to say that Die! Die! My Darling! is the Red State of the sixties. From its theme of religious fanatics to the story about kidnapping a non-believer/random ordinary Joe and force Jesus into her head with violence! It’s a brave commercial thriller that dares to make Christianity the bad guy.” Ninja Dixon

“Director Silvio Narizzano does his best to undermine Matheson’s script and his leads’ performances with a bagful of scary-movie tricks, and it is painfully obvious just how on-the-cheap this production is. But at worst, this is Saturday afternoon couch potato fodder, neither cheesy nor lurid enough…” Pop Matters


“Narizzano’s direction is decent enough but it’s Matheson’s script that really shines here. The writing does a great job of fleshing out the characters and it gives us plenty of detail as to their motivations and personalities. There are a few interesting twists and turns in here too and the film does a very good job of building suspense with a story that feels grounded and real enough to work.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“To the cast’s credit, they play it straight and allow the over the top qualities to come naturally, with solid support from Peter Vaughan and Yootha Joyce as the shady housekeepers and Donald Sutherland of all people as a mentally impaired handyman. It’s the Bankhead fans who will gravitate towards this, and she doesn’t disappoint even if she could have done with a few witty lines.” The Spinning Image


Fanatic proved that once again that Hammer could create an incredibly effective horror movie without cheap theatrics or special effects. Good acting, directing and a great script can do wonders and Fanatic, or Die! Die! My Darling! as it is also known, is an example of those three things coming together in perfect harmony.” The Telltale Mind

“Delightful all around. Bankhead revels in the role, chewing the scenery – and liking it! It’s all bolstered by a tight script from horror scribe Richard Matheson and competent direction from Narizzano.” The Terror Trap


Variety wrote that the film “should click with fright fans,” praising Narizzano’s direction as “imaginative” and the script as having dialogue that was generally “fresher than most pix of its class” while giving Bankhead “numerous chances to display virtuosity, from sweet-tongued menace to maniacal blood-lust.

Choice dialogue:

Patricia: “They’re all insane. All of them!”


Cast and characters:

Tallulah Bankhead … Mrs Trefoile
Stefanie Powers … Patricia Carroll
Peter Vaughan … Harry
Maurice Kaufmann … Alan Glentower
Yootha Joyce … Anna
Donald Sutherland … Joseph
Gwendolyn Watts … Gloria
Robert Dorning … Ormsby
Philip Gilbert … Oscar
Winifred Dennis … Shopkeeper
Diana King … Woman Shopper
Henry McGee … Rector (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Letchmore Heath, Hertfordshire, England (village green and Three Horseshoes pub scene)

Associated British Studios, Elstree, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England (studio) in summer 1964

Release:

21st March 1965 in the UK.

Notes:

The film is part of the psycho-biddy sub-genre (also known as Grande Dame Guignol, hagsploitation and hag horror) which features a formerly-glamorous older woman who has become mentally unbalanced and terrorises those around her. The genre was inaugurated in 1962 by the success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and lasted until the mid-1970s.

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