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Thursday, February 27, 2014

AIP On The Cusp Of Change


King Karloff For 1965 Holidays

"Dr. Evil" (Phil Morris) Hosted Channel 3 Charlotte's
Long-Running "Horror Theatre" on Friday Nights
Beware: Another of Greenbriar's footie pajama posts where an increasingly distant past is slobbered over, a habit I once disdained in "old men" who attended cowboy cons and waxed nostalgic for Hoot and Hoppy. Now I'm one of them, only it's Boris/Bela/Ghidrah that command my sentiment. So herewith Die, Monster, Die!, one lately released, and glowing, as does its last-act "Monster," on Blu-Ray. I'd rather Boris Karloff not play men with secrets as here because that means he will talk less, me being one who'd listen to BK recite content off pantry shelves. Die, Monster, Die! was my 1965-idea of a class horror movie because Charlotte ran it for nine days at A-level hardtop the Capri, and even our Liberty gave midweek placement to what ordinarily would be half of a Saturday double. Die, Monster, Die! was that year's Christmas present, and though not apparent at the time, among last of old-style AIP amusements for child in us all. A new year would see quick devolvement to biker, then protest, pics, a flip and ugly side of emerging youth as Nicholson/Arkoff saw them. Die, Monster, Die! was near-last for comforting style led by the Poe adaptations, themselves down for Tomb Of Ligeia count and not to return in Corman-directed format to which we'd been accustomed.



AIP had been for fast-change and market adaptation from beginnings, always ready to fold up a tent and move where crowds led them. Jim/Sam had seen popularity of old horror faces and used them singly or as bunches, thus Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, and Peter Lorre in revolving door that was budget chilling from 1960 success with House Of Usher. These were stalwarts a mainstream industry wanted less, but Jim/Sam knew their value to youngsters who stayed up Friday/Saturdays to see K/P/R/L pull graveyard shift on Shock Theatre. Karloff was pleased at seventy-eight to have a contract for chillers he'd play mostly from seated position, an old, old man that drew young, young patronage. I'd not miss a new Karloff and frankly regarded him over Vincent Price, who was to most crowds and AIP hirers the stronger boxoffice, maybe because Price gave them more the wink like late-night horror hosts.

May-Be a Last Of Great Combos AIP Distributed

Die, Monster, Die! became sort of an event for Castle Of Frankenstein #7 giving it cover treatment plus dispatch of correspondent Michel Parry to Brit location. This was heady stuff for readership that seldom got behind scenes, what with director Daniel Haller and star Nick Adams sitting for interviews and on-set photography allowed. Parry even handed out copies of CoF to an impressed DMD crew. The film was announced as "Karloff's First Dramatic Monster Role In A Horror Film Since 1939!!!!!," which made up with !!!!! what it may have lacked in accuracy. I did not necessarily want to see King Karloff playing a "monster" by 1965, being content with his making the scene intact and not being put to overexertion. CoF's cover glimpse indicated frailty, and we knew these parties couldn't go forever, but what joy to look at Die, Monster, Die! in afternoon theatre setting, then come home where Karloff had guest shots for TV and dominated late night with chillers done thirty years before. The mid-sixties monster boom was there for a reason ... never was so much of what we wanted at such ready access.


Die, Monster, Die! lives again on Blu-Ray, courtesy Shout! Factory. I'll say to at least personal satisfaction that it looks better here than unspooled at the Liberty, where "Colorscope" was by-word for adequate, but never more so. Deep IB Technicolor saturation enriched many of the Hammers, but seldom an AIP (ironically, the latter's trailers, printed on IB stock, were far richer than features they advertised, which were generally processed by Pathe labs). Does superior presentation make Die, Monster, Die! a better film? I'll say yes, forty-nine years having melted to pleasing effect for me, but not I'd hope to extent of Frieda Jackson's face as shown on CoF's cover (why did Cal Beck elect to feature her so prominently rather than Karloff?). Die, Monster, Die! is high-style horror beautifully designed (director Haller's strength) and you'll please never mind if the story doesn't altogether work. That's a letdown we must bear but once, while setting and atmosphere go on forever. This monster expects to see Die, Monster, Die! plenty more times before he die dies.

4 Comments:

Blogger KING OF JAZZ said...

Have never seen it but well remember reading about it as a kid. My monster mania was from 1964 and 1968. I well understand how this kind of enthusiam inspired this selection!

9:48 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts has some interesting thoughts about Boris Karloff and changes that came to horror films in the late 60's:


Really enjoyed your posts of the last few days, yeah, I guess DIE MONSTER DIE might warrant being called the last Karloff vintage spooker, what with an H. P. Lovecraft story and all, but he certainly had some good performances to follow, in both THE SORCERERS and TARGETS. I do agree with what you say about AIP’s change back to more exploitation, and their late-60’s/early 70’s horror films seemed more like warmed over Hammer and were certainly less fun. Vincent Price gives a good performance in WITCHFINDER GENERAL/THE CONQUEROR WORM, but it is such a dreary dismal film, and THE OBLONG BOX and CRY OF THE BANSHEE were no better. It wasn’t until the Dr. Phibes films and THEATRE OF BLOOD that Price found his humor again, and they were sort of a last hurrah for him and the whole 60’s horror genre before the violent slasher flicks took over.

Funny, another thing I remember about Karloff was that he kept coming back in new movies years after he was dead, which I thought was both strange and neat. Heck, I think TARGETS didn’t play Phoenix until after his death, then only on a drive-in double bill as I remember, then we had THE CRIMSON CULT, and CAULDRON OF BLOOD after that, then I caught one of his Mexican features (THE FEAR CHAMBER, I think) playing at the Palace West, one of our still surviving downtown movie palaces that was now running only Mexican Movies, and another one, THE SNAKE PEOPLE, turned up in a Columbia Pictures TV package on Channel 5 sometime by the mid-late 70’s. It was like he was still around long after he was gone.

11:51 AM  
Blogger DokG said...

Thank you for digging up that amazing poster of Dr Evil promoting DIE MONSTER DIE. Dr Evil (played by Phillip Morris) was a spook show practitioner who made the transition to television as Charlotte, N.C.'s SHOCK era horror host. Morris is still around, running the Phillip Morris costume company.

6:21 PM  
Blogger tbonemankini said...

Re the Dell comic pictured....don't see a Comics Code sticker on the cover. ...given the subject matter of the film it would be interesting to see how they handled it given that most monsters were banned from comics then....the Code went away about the time the PCA did....

9:11 AM  

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