Tallulah's Final Film is Great Fun if You Can Overlook the Plot Holes
As thrillers go, DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! really isn't all that bad; it has all the necessary elements of the genre and the acting is several steps above the average for this kind of film.
The plot is a tad bit predictable, but not uninteresting: Patricia Carroll (Stefanie Powers) comes to London to marry her fiancé Alan Glentower (Maurice Kaufmann). One day she decides to pay a visit in the country to Mrs Trefoile (Tallulah Bankhead in her final film), the mother of her former fiancé Stephen, who died in a car accident. Why? We're not sure; to pay respects, maybe.
BIG MISTAKE. Because the old woman is certifiable, blames Pat for her son's death, and before either we or Pat know what we are about, the old bat has the poor woman locked in a room, refusing to give her food, and reading daily to her from the Bible to "purify" her for her "reunion" with Stephen (whose death we find out at some point was in fact a suicide). And the batty old thing has managed to infect her house servants Anna (Yootha Joyce) and Harry (Peter Vaughan) with her peculiar brand of insanity, or maybe there's money in it for them, but they do her bidding without question. Also on the premises is Joseph (Donald Sutherland, unrecognizable in a sensational performance), a developmentally disabled young man who does odd jobs around the house and who might help Pat but in his innocence he runs everything by the old lady.
The hour or so that Powers spends fighting to escape has its moments: when Pat tries to outwit Mrs Trefoile (she comes close a couple of times) the excitement picks up; Powers, as always, is fiercely intelligent even when playing the victim. Which makes her lack of success slightly hard to swallow, especially since it's a while before the old bat finally pulls out a gun. In fact, the moment when Pat informs the old woman that her son killed himself, the loony old thing shouts "LIE!" and belts her across the mouth. And Pat just sort of shrinks away. This to me was the one flaw in the plot: Powers's character is intelligent, strong, and not a shrinking violet; WHY she doesn't just punch the old bat's lights out is somewhat of a mystery, but if she had, most of the movie would not exist.
The acting, as is often true of Hammer films, is excellent. Tallulah Bankhead brings her own exceptional style to the Grand Guignol proceedings; as a final film, it is nothing to be ashamed of. She runs the gamut from terrifying to hilarious with her usual panache.
Yootha Joyce and Peter Vaughan as the mysterious couple who keep house for Mrs Trefoile deliver splendid performances; just enough weirdness mixed with a drop of humanity to keep the viewer guessing. And Donald Sutherland, as I have mentioned before, is so good I didn't even recognize him and I've been a fan for over forty years.
The viewer has only one hurdle to jump: to buy the premise that a strong, healthy young woman could so easily be overpowered by a frail old woman. Bankhead is a formidable presence but Powers is forced to play the shrinking violet in some scenes to make her credible as a victim. Some of that doesn't work all that well, but otherwise the movie is jolly good fun.
Pass the popcorn.
Never mess with a middle-aged, Bipolar queen with AIDS and an attitude problem!