Monday, January 25, 2010


If you ever wondered what Carrie White's grandmother was like, or you enjoy having your horror films draped in hysteri- cal fundamentalist religious beliefs, then step right up and be sanctified by the outrageous Bible belting of Tallulah Bankhead in Die! Die! My Darling!

Believing that she owes her dead fiancé's mother an extended visit, debonair debutante Pat Caroll (spunky Stefanie Powers) ditches her BBC boyfriend at Elstree and heads off to the most baroque home in the British Empire. There she meets Mrs. Trefoile (Bankhead), a fading stage slag turned religious fanatic who has the really bizarre idea that promiscuous Pat needs a moral soul cleansing. She kidnaps the lass, locks her in an attic bedroom, and feeds her unflavored groats hoping she will expel her sin via explosive diarrhea. When that doesn't work, she starves her, all the while quoting various passages from John the Baptist's greatest hits. When Pat acts up, the preachy old prole has her staff of sadists beat, bend, and bind her. Then she recites a few psalms in her breathy, basso beer putsch voice. Eventually, after several failed escape attempts, lots of missed meals, and one too many readings of Paul's Letters to the Ephesians, Pat goes bat guano and wants out. But Mrs. Trefoile has a higher call- ing as part of her criminal conspiracy. She wants the carnal Miss Caroll to confess her digressions and then join her dead son, the sort of homosexual Stephen, in the great be- yond. And there is only one way that the trapped lass can achieve this goal and that is to Die! Die! My Darling!

This strange entry into 60s ‘Grande Dame Guignol” drapes its dementia in a decidedly Deuteronomy design. Mrs. Trefoile is the kind of stark raving loon who bleats the beatitudes of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and then mismanages their intent for her own twisted desire for creating cantankerous chaos. Packing a paltry pistol and wandering the wounded corridors of her fetid funhouse screaming for her self-snuffing son Stephen, she directly answers the questions of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, Who Slew Auntie Roo, and What's The Matter With Helen all in one sacrosanct swoop.

With the incomparable Tallulah in her last film appearance, Die! Die! My Darling! is a good reminder that your in-laws aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be – most of the time.

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