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Die! Die! My Darling

Ring a Ding Ding

Die! Die! My Darling (1965)

     Tallulah Bankhead was always a bit on the freaky-looking side, but the once-seductive standby of 1930s cinema drops the glamor act for a twisted turn as a psychotic hostage-taker in 1965’s Die! Die! My Darling. This is my second experience with the film. I’m not sure how Ryan and I decided upon it a year ago, but I sure was thrilled to see it back on TCM’s schedule.

     A 63-year-old Bankhead plays the mother of Stefanie Powers‘ deceased ex-fiance. She resides in some country area of England, and Powers’ character opts to visit the woman while traveling with her new fiance. A supremely pious Bankhead keeps the woman for dinner, but only after she endures several hours of religious service. The meal that follows is one that could best be described as gruel (no salt or condiments allowed). Given the late hour, Powers spends the night and in the morning is chastised for her red sweater, that being the devil’s hue, you know.

     When Powers finally gets fed up with the religious restrictions and continual critique from Bankhead about her purity, she starts to pack her things only to be locked in the bedroom. Breaking the window with a chair, she is then confronted by Bankhead who aims a small pistol at the woman. Up to a third-story room Powers goes, and there she stays.

     Bankhead’s twisted motivation here is concern that any sin on Powers’ part will affect her dead son’s standing in the afterlife. Mysteries remain in the story behind the “strange way he died” and what Bankhead has in the basement.

     Kidnapping movies set me on edge particularly when the confinement takes place in a home or location not far removed from everyday civilization. A great amount of frustration goes into the idea that someone has to find the hostage eventually even as that fate continues to evade us in the plot. Die! Die! My Darling also led me to realize how eerie third stories are in houses. Especially in this context, the idea that a room is that much farther away from the ground floor — making any calls for help more unlikely to reach the ears of a potential savior — is worrisome yet terribly ideal for the villain. I find kidnapping films equally frightening in that they are often constructed as truly plausible situations. If you can find the right psycho, you too might be locked away, beaten and starved.

     Adding to the fun of Die! Die! My Darling is the casting of a young Donald Sutherland as a mentally disabled groundskeeper of sorts. The pale, toe-headed character makes for many a frustrating and shocking moment in the film.

     By the way, this flick is set for a Nov. 5 showing on TCM. It’s definitely worth a watch.

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