I know some people will groan about this, but I feel this movie has never gotten the credit it deserves. Mostly because there is a tendency to look with prejudice upon it's leading man, Nick Adams, because of the slow-down in his carreer just before his untimely and mysterious death at age 36. My father was a big naysayer of Nick Adams. His prejudice stemmed from Adams' participation in Rebel Without A Cause, a film my father saw as encouragement for youth to openly oppose their parents, without showing the parents' side of the story. However, if you watch Nick Adams at work, and keep an open mind, whether it's in one of his most famous films, like Rebel Without A Cause or Mister Roberts, or in his now legendary television series, The Rebel, you'll see a talented actor who was at ease in front of the camera. In spite of his young features (at times described as baby-faced) Adams had a screen presence that was strong and capable. Over time, my attitude of him has turned from thinking of him as a so-so player, to that of an underrated actor of whom life ended before something better came along. After you've viewed enough B-grade and lesser horror films, you begin to appreciate when a qualified and talented actor is given the lead in one of these films. And in Die Monster Die, Nick Adams was perhaps at his best during that slow-down period of his life. It's certainly one of the better B-grade horror films he was forced to work in at the time. And it's one of the better releases by MGM in its Midnight Movies collection.
If you look at the title alone, you're likely to pass on this one, thinking Cheese all the way, but don't let the title stop you. I think this was one of the most original science fiction/horror films to come out of American International pictures. It's based on an H.P. Lovecraft story called The Colour out of Space. It does, of course, take poetic license in order to make a movie-length script, but it keeps enough of the original story in order to feel and taste like H.P. Lovecraft. Boris Karloff alone is worth the movie. His portrayal of a wheel chair bound quasi-scientist obsessed with using a radioactive meteor discovered on his land to make a better world is wonderful gothic material. The film has gothic painted all over it, from the sprawling English country side, to the thunderstorms, to the ancient torture chambers in the basement of Karloff's rambling English manor. These gothic feels combined with the science-fiction theme are exactly what make this movie feel like an H.P. Lovecraft story.
The film features a wonderful, if brief performance by Freda Jackson, perhaps remembered best for her cackling performance in The Brides of Dracula, where she hunkered down over a freshly filled grave and coaxed a new vampire victim through the surface of the moist dirt with loving, motherly whispers.
This movie also introduced one of the loveliest British starlets of the time to the big screen, one Suzan Farmer, who can also be seen in Dracula, Prince of Darkness. She plays the somewhat confused and uncertain lover of Nick Adams' character. Their scenes together seem to be filled with genuine emotion, giving just the right feeling of two lovers caught up in deadly mystery.
And MGM did a wonderful job with this low-cost DVD. This film is presented in Wide Screen, enhanced for Wide Screen Television (which is the same thing as Anamorphic Wide Screen). Whatever print they used for this film was beautiful. The colors are deep and lush, the scenes clear and crisp with very little show of wear over the years. The only extra is the Theatrical Preview, and the scene-selection option. But who cares for anything more! After all, if extras are more important to you than the film, you should save your money and buy film-history books. I for one salute MGM for offering us these affordable gems in a nice quality DVD.
If you're a Nick Adams fan, then buy the movie for his strong leading man performance. If you like good quality, B-grade science-fiction horror, I don't think you'll be at disappointed in this movie. And if you're a Boris Karloff fan, it's a must-see. And, if you're a Vincent Price film nut, as I am, you'll be excited to hear that MGM has released two other beautifully rendered DVDs at the same low price staring this legend of the horror cinema; The Abominable Doctor Phibes, and the sequel, Doctor Phibes Rises Again (both under the Midnight Movies titles). Plus! Watch for Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum coming out very soon from MGM.