Friday, January 1, 2010

Jesus freaks just want to have fun

Now that the new year is here, TCM is getting back to normal, which on the overnights between Friday and Saturday means TCM Underground. One of tonight's cult movies is the wonderfully-titled (at least for Americans) Die! Die! My Darling!, airing overnight at 4:15 AM ET.

Stefanie Powers plays American girl Pat Carroll, who is living in England with her second fiancé. Her first fiancé Stephen has been dead some time, having died in a car crash, but Pat believes she ought to go see the dead fiancé's mother, Mrs. Trefoile (Tallulah Bankhead, in her final film role), and give her the joyous news that she's going to be married after all. Pat's current fiancé doesn't see the reason for this, and it turns out that he's right, although not for the reasons he might have imagined.

Mrs. Trefoile, you see, hsa become a Jesus freak, with some pretty bizarre religious views. She's gotten rid of all the mirrors in the house and doesn't want anybody to wear any make-up, as these are signs of vanity, which is an apparently wicked sin. There's all sorts of bible readings going on at the suitably creepy old house, in part because Trefoile has rejected the Church of England. They believe that a marriage is terminated once one of the spouses dies, but Trefoile says that a marriage is a marriage for all eternity -- and that Pat, having been betrothed to Stephen, is in effect married to him still, and thus can't marry her current fiancé. It goes without saying that Pat rejects this, and when she claims that the accident that killed Stephen was in fact not an accident, the good Jesus freak decides that Pat has to atone for her sins, and Trefoile is going to be there to make certain she does.

It's here that the fun really begins, as Pat is held hostage against her will, trying to escape from the gothic mansion and having to deal with some equally nutty servants (including Donald Sutherland), who have their own secrets. Die! Die! My Darling! was one of a slew of movies made in the mid-1960s after the surprise success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane revealed a demand for over-the-top horror/suspense movies starring aging actresses with dark secrets. This one isn't anything particularly groundbreaking, but it is quite a bit of fun, in part due to the garish 1960s color and design, and the British locations. It helps that Bankhead looks like she's having a lot of fun hamming it up.

Die! Die! My Darling! was released to DVD several years ago, but the DVD is apparently out of print, so you're going to have to pay a pretty penny, or else catch TCM's occasional showings.

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