Die, Monster, Die! 1965, dir. Daniel Haller. Watched on YouTube so you don’t have to.
Two things attracted me. The first was Boris Karloff. I’ve only ever seen BK in Frankenstein, and he was good in that. I mean – a little lumbering & awkward maybe, but I’m guessing that was in the script. The other is the title, which is reassuringly emphatic. It seemed about right – especially given the UK political mood at the minute. I think we’re ALL dreaming of a little Die Monster Die. But given that a general election is still 2 years off, I’ll have to sublimate by watching this film and hope for some tips along the way. So buckle on your big boots and we go. DMD, 1965 – let’s monster this!
0:11 Edgy violins over a swirling, red blob graphic. Presented by Samuel Z. Arkoff, which doesn’t sound right. Zarkoff I might go for. Z. Arkoff? Nope.
0:24 This blob thing. It’s weird. The kind of abstract picture you’d get if you dropped a Babybel in Toilet Duck.
0:36 The title: Die, Monster, Die! And for emphasis – if it wasn’t emphatic enough – three blasts from the brass section. The exclamation point should’ve gone to a slide trombone.
0:58 Introducing Suzan Farmer. That’s Suzan with a Z. How many times she said THAT through her career is anyone’s guess. I wonder if she’s any relation to Samuel Z. Arkoff?
1:20 Favourite name so far: Billy Milton. See how many times you can say Billy Milton fast and loud before you start sounding like an idling jetski.
1:46 The swirly abstract graphic of the title sequence carries on being swirly and abstract. I’ve never SEEN so little be spent to so LITTLE effect. Are they trying to hypnotise the audience? Or drive them back out into the foyer to see what else is playing? Quit, Audience, Quit!
1:57 Apparently, Special Effects are by Wally Veevers, which is strangely satisfying to say out loud. The Veevers, I mean. Not so much the Wally.
3:00 Into the action. (Theoretically). A long shot of a steam train coming into a station. A VERY long shot. It takes so long you start looking around at the small stuff. Some washing out on a line behind the station waiting room. I wouldn’t hang my washing out on a line by a railway line. That’s too many lines. And I’ve never seen one in real life but I think steam trains are pretty smokey. Like having a giant coal fire rattle past. The washing would come in dirtier than when you put it out. I’m actually not that bothered. I’m just looking for something to talk about whilst a train comes into a station VERY VERY SLOWLY INDEED
3:13 Aaaaaaand stops. Aaaaaaaand a close up of the brakes. Aaaaaaand if the film finishes here I’ll be happy.
3:17 But – there’s more. A snappy looking guy in a snappy trenchcoat and snappy hair leans out of the window to have a look. Maybe he’s persuaded by the washing line, but anyway – he gets out, carrying the kind of suitcase you’d draw with crayons if someone asked. The train moves off. Shame. I’ve come to love this train. We spent some formative time together. You don’t lose that stuff in a hurry.
3:40 This station is Arkham. (I sound like a platform announcement). Please Alight here for Boris Karloff, Monsters and connecting services to Horrorfordshire.
3:52 First four lines of dialogue are between Snappy Suitcase Guy and a taxi driver:
It’s so authentic I could weep.
Apparently Snappy Suitcase Guy is called Nick (incorrect – please see later note) – I know because I looked it up (see previous note about later note).
Turns out, Nick is going to the Witley place. The taxi driver refuses to take him and drives off. Close up on Nick. If I was Nick, I’d have said some VERY BAD WORDS about the taxi driver. But he just clenches his jaw and looks around some more.
Arkham is one of those sleepy little English towns generally known as ‘quaint’ which is a portmanteau word: Quite a Nice Place to Live It Ain’t.
NOTE: One thing I’ve noticed about a certain breed of leading man is the Head Wobble. It comes in a package with the Steely Look and the Flinty Grimace.
4:40 Nick goes over to a Greengrocer’s shop. The Greengrocer’s selling a head of cabbage to a woman who looks like she’s in the market for a replacement head. Nick takes an apple and bites into it without paying (it must be how Americans shop – taste before you buy).
‘I’m anxious to get to the Witley place’ he says.
‘Sorry!’ says the Greengrocer, snatching the apple off him (he’ll put it back on display, bite side in).
The cabbage woman backs away. She wasn’t reckoning on this sort of trouble when she set out that morning for a new head.
5:04 Cabbage woman hurries across the street to tell some local types sitting outside a pub that the foreign gentleman is asking for the Witley place.
Nick wobbles over.
‘Hello,’ he says. ‘Is there any place around here I can rent an automobile?’
‘No. Bicycle maybe,’ says a retired general type with froth on his lip, or a moustache, difficult to say.
Nick mentions the Witley place.
The locals all laugh
‘He wants to go to the Witley place!’ says an old guy in a hat and beard he stole off a gnome. ‘The Witley place!’
I’m not getting great vibes about the Witley place.
Nick isn’t put off, though. He goes to the bike shop – a timbered building with a bike hanging off the front, like a bike shop in medieval times.
‘Hello’ says Nick.
‘Something you want?’ says the shopkeeper.
‘Yeah. I wanna rent a bike for a few days.’
‘Where would you be riding it?’ says the shop Nazi.
‘I’ll pay for it in advance,’ says Nick. (Good boy. Just don’t mention the Witley place).
‘I asked where you’d be going!’ says the guy, looking furious.
‘To the Witley place,’ says Nick, breaking down under questioning.
The shopkeeper says no.
Nick will just have to walk.
6:58 So off he goes. There are some calendar quality shots of horses and country lanes, but someone in the orchestra’s sawing away on a cello, so I’m guessing all’s not well in this neck of the outback. Careful Nick!
7:17 Now he’s walking through a landscape that wouldn’t look out of place in a post-apocalypse movie. Nick stops to snap a branch off a tree. It crumbles to ash. No wonder the people of Arkham don’t like the Witley place – although the old bearded guy got quite a kick out of hearing about it.
8:05 He walks up to a padlocked gate, and does what anyone does in movies who walks up to a padlock – which is to reach out and lift it up a little, to emphasise that yes, it is actually locked. Me? I wouldn’t touch it. I’d maybe throw a rock at it and be done, but it’d depend what mood I was in.
8:20 There’s no wall to the side of the gate though, which is an oversight. Nick goes to sneak through – and sees a bear trap just in time! He uses his suitcase to spring it. Which is good thinking, and much less expensive than a leg.
8:40 Nick walks over a foggy bridge, ignoring the stupid frog noises. A cloaked figure watches him from the fog. All in all, you’d have to say the signs aren’t propitious.
9:06 The Witley place is pretty much as you’d imagine. A substantial 16 bedroomed mansion in the Gothic style, off road parking, set in a hundred acres of pristine, apocalyptic land with bags of character and plenty of scope for redevelopment – maybe a health spa, or whatever the opposite of that might be.
9:14 I’m not sure about all this fog. Maybe the cloaked figure is vaping (but I don’t think they had e-cigarettes back in the Pleistocene or whenever this hunk of cheese was shot).
9:35 Nick goes up to a suitably awful looking door guarded either side by fierce stone gryphons. (Note to self: Don’t bother knocking on a door quarded either side by fierce stone gryphons. Whatever you’re selling, they’re not buying. Trust me). Nick knocks (couldn’t resist typing that). A crow does its gothic crow thing somewhere overhead. Or maybe that’s the door alarm.
9:51 The door opens.
Does it creak?
Does a crow squawk in the woods?
9:58 Nick strolls in and looks around. Decor = Hanged Monk, top notes of garlic and plague.
He says hello a few times. Nothing. The grandfather clock strikes the hour and Nick spins round. He’s feeling twitchy and I don’t blame him. First the people of Arkham, then the bear trap, now the spooky clock. Why he ever agreed to drag his sorry suitcase out here god only knows.
He turns round – and is face to face with Boris Karloff!
He looks friendlier than the bike shop guy, though.
‘The signs clearly say to keep out..’ lisps Karloff, who the cast list tells us is Nahum Witley.
‘I have come to visit the Witleys.’
‘I am now Witley’ says Nahum.
‘Actually – it’s Susan I came to visit’ (Suzan?)
‘My daughter’s not receiving visitors!’ says Nahum. (I’ve never heard of anyone called Nahum before. Nathan, yes. Nahum, no.)
(*) NOTE: Actually – the hero ISN’T called Nick. Nick is the actor playing the hero, who is ACTUALLY called Steve Reinhart. But I won’t go back and change this because I like the ‘Nick knocks’ line and can’t bear to lose it. I’ll call him Steve from now on, though. Thanks. I’ll make it up to you. How, I don’t know. But I will.
11:54 Steve explains that he met Susan in America in science class. Like they have over there.
Nahum’s not having it, though. He says he’ll get Merwyn take him back to the village. (Merwyn? Not Mervyn? All these names are slightly off – which actually goes quite nicely with the overall aesthetic, though…)
12:18 Susan appears at the top of the stairs.
‘Steve!’ she says, in a burst of pink sweater and romantic violins. Then she checks her hair in a mirror and runs down stairs, her pointy bra leading by about three feet.
‘Steve! I thought you’d never get here!’ she says.
Her father looks on disapprovingly (which is quite a thing when your father is Boris Karloff).
‘I want to take him up to meet mother,’ says Susan.
‘You know it’s forbidden for her to have visitors!’ says Nahum. To no effect.
13:00 So they go upstairs and stop in front of a ghastly portrait of Susan’s great grandfather, Elias Witley, a man apparently made entirely of spun sugar.
‘He built this house a hundred and fifty years ago’ says Susan.
Then she shows him another portrait, her grandfather, Corbin Witley – who looks like Keith Richards gene-spliced with an owl.
‘What did HE do?’ says Steve.
‘He went insane’ says Susan.
13:26 ‘You must understand about mother’ says Susan. ‘She’s not well.’ Steve pouts heroically.
She takes him into her bedroom.
‘Come in’ says a wobbly Shakespearean voice. ‘And CLOSE the door.’
Turns out mother is called Letitia, which sounds more like a sneeze than a name. She’s in a four poster bed, behind the kind of net drapes that would keep elephants out, let alone mosquitos.
She asks to speak to Steve alone. Susan leaves. Steve sits in a chair he’s obviously not sure about. It looks about as comfy as that bear trap.
14:53 Meanwhile, down in a super fake spidery crypt, Merwyn wheels Nahum in a throne-on-wheels type wheelchair arrangement onto a boxy wooden chair lift. Nahum hauls on a rope to lower himself down whilst Merwyn walks slowly down the stairs. (I mean – I’m as interested in the history and development of stair lifts as the next guy, but even for a home adaptations nerd like me this scene goes on a bit. It’s worse than the train. Maybe cinema goers back in the sixties were more chilled, or medicated, or desperate – but for a film with a runtime of 90 minutes, so far we’ve had about 9 seconds of action, and three of them were a clock).
15:34 Still down in the crypt. Merwyn is pushing Nahum around through arches, gates, more arches and so on. All very atmospheric, but this is more of a studio tour than a film. I’m starting to look forward to the cafe and the shop. Even Nahum looks bored. It’s a long way from The Mummy.
15:50 Merwyn stumbles.
‘Are you alright?’ says Nahum.
(I diagnose a lack of dramatic sustenance).
‘Yessir’ gasps Merwyn.
‘I’m going to need your help,’ says Nahum.
‘You can trust me, sir’ says Merwyn.
He carries on wheezing & wheeling.
16:05 Back up in Ma Witley’s bedroom. (Hopefully she’ll pull back the drapes and we’ll get a horrible reveal).
‘Come here!’ she says to Steve. ‘Closer!’
She asks him to open a box on the table.
He opens the box.
‘It’s an earring’ says Steve.
‘Yes. It’s an earring,’ says Letitia.
I’m reminded of the dialogue between Steve and the taxi driver. This is top stuff and I’m glad to be alive so I can witness it.
‘Take it out of the box. Examine it,’ says Letitia.
‘It’s gold’ says Steve, ever the scientist.
‘It’s not the material it’s made from that makes it significant,’ says Letitia, more archly than the cellar. ‘You probably think this whole house is obsessed with mystery…’
Apparently the earring belonged to Letitia’s maid, Helga. She was a ‘nice, simple girl’, completely devoted to Letitia. But Helga came down with some terrible disease.
‘I begged her to go to the doctor in Arkham’
‘Did she go?’
‘No. I don’t think she did.’
Steve looks like he’s about to throw the earring at Letitia (it wouldn’t make it through the drapes).
17:29 Back in the crypt, Merwyn is STILL pushing Nahum around. They enter a chamber with a plinth like a giant waffle press with something inside that thrums with blue light and mist.
Maybe this is the games room?
17:54 Nahum opens a trunk that’s full of chains. (Yep. Games room).
Meanwhile, Merwyn stares down into the waffle maker. Just above it is a giant iron skull, covered in cobwebs. Sweet.
In fact, the skull and spiderweb theme is picked up in a few places, and I think it pops and works really well.
‘Chains for devils!’ snarls Nahum, giving them a snarky kinda smile, then tosses them back in the box.
When he goes to touch a padlock in the approved way, he accidentally picks up a massive spider. He flings it to the floor with a shudder. I’m disappointed. I thought Boris Karloff would appreciate a big fat spider or two.
18:47 Back in the bedroom, Letitia is talking more about the sick maid, Helga.
‘She was overcome with something like…. like… self-loathing.’
‘Why is the earring significant?’ asks Steve on behalf of the whole audience (or what’s left of it)
‘She dropped it when she left about a week ago.’
Steve asks if Nahum knows what happened to her. Apparently Nahum doesn’t. Anyway – Steve is Letitia’s one hope for Susan.
She reaches out a hand to him through the drapes. Steve doesn’t look too pleased – the hand is scaly and kinda icky. Letitia asks him to promise to take Susan away. Steve looks like he’s about to throw up. (But at least he didn’t blow any money on hiring a bike).
20:07 Back in the crypt, Merwyn struggles to unlock the padlock securing a door. (Padlocks feature a surprising amount in this film). In fact, Merwyn struggles SO much unlocking the padlock, Boris Karloff has to improvise a concerned look behind him, like he thinks the big spider he tossed on the ground a little earlier is sneaking up. Brilliant! You can’t teach instincts like that.
Actually – turns out – they weren’t unlocking the door but locking it. Merwyn wheels Nahum away. You can have too much fun.
20:25 Susan is waiting for Steve to come out of her mum’s bedroom. (I know – I just read that back and it does seem a little off)
‘What did you talk about?’ she says.
‘You!’ says Steve, giving a leery kind of smile that means he’s either feeling sexy or having a stroke. ‘I’ve got parental blessing. Or half of it, anyway. Where’s my bedroom – down here?’
Quite why he just doesn’t come out and say your mum’s ill, she needs a doctor, what happened to Helga, shall we just grab my suitcase and leave… I don’t know.
Anyway – Susan shows him into his room, almost knocking over a couple of statues with her pointy bra.
Steve grabs her by the shoulders and asks her about her mum, whether she’s seen a doctor or not, what happened to Helga (which goes to show I should just shut up and wait to see what happens…) Susan is confused. ‘What ELSE did you talk about?’ she says. But then they kiss, and nothing else matters.
‘Your mother did ask whether my intentions were honourable,’ smirks Steve when they finally unsucker.
‘Are they?’ says Susan.
‘Whaddyou think?’ says Steve, and gives the kind of wink that would make a gastroenterologist heave.
Nahum witnesses this through the half-open door. He doesn’t seem happy. (I’m with him on this).
22:18 Nahum wheels himself off to see his wife. They have the normal, long-time-married, gothic/snipey kinda exchange, who thought what and when, mention of the devil and various other relatives etcetera. Nahum tells her that nothing is going to deter him from his purpose.
‘That’s what Corbin said’ says Letitia.
‘If there was evil, it’s buried with him,’ says Nahum, weightily.
‘I saw him change into an old man possessed of the devil,’ says Letitia.
Nahum pours himself a drink.
They snark on a lot more, sins of the fathers, that kinda thing. Letitia threatens to go to the village to ‘show herself’, which puts the frighteners on Nahum. He agrees to let Steve stay a day longer but no more.
The scene culminates in Nahum giving a VERY dramatic line that he delivers with the actorly aplomb you’d expect from someone who learned their craft in silent movies:
‘The truth? The truth is that I see the future! And all that I have planned for it will fill it with a richness we have never known…’
‘All that I can see is horror,’ snaps Letitia. ‘Horror!’
At least she’s got her drapes.
25:57 Dinner at the Witley place. They’re all sitting round a big table (apart from Letitia). Merwyn has some epic, slow & clumsy butler schtick. None of that food will be hot. This is probably the horror Letitia talked about.
Susan and Steve eat soup that looks like vomit. I’d excuse myself and have a banana from the basket instead – but maybe they’re display purposes only. Although that didn’t stop Steve back at the Greengrocer’s. Steve and Susan look at Nahum, who’s sitting slumped in his wheel-throne, staring at the tablecloth. Maybe he had a line or two there, but got exhausted after his ‘truth’ speech and couldn’t go on. So to fill the time they eat the vile soup some more instead.
‘This is a very large room, ‘says Steve, eventually, to break the ice.
Great line, Steve.
Nahum stares at him.
Apparently there used to be lots of big parties there, but not so much these days, what with the devils and frogs and blasted heath and so on.
Merwyn says he took some food up to Letitia. He put a tray in front of her but she didn’t seem interested. Maybe it wasn’t drapey enough.
Just then they hear her scream.
‘What was that?’ says Steve.
No one says anything.
They carry on.
Susan talks about the strange fire that happened on the heath.
Merwyn is in the background sawing at a cut of meat; when he hears Susan mention the fire he slips and almost loses an arm.
‘I think Susan you’re inclined to exaggerate,’ says Nahum.
Merwyn brings over a tray of meat, collapses, tugs the tablecloth and pulls the whole lot down on top of him as he falls.
‘It’s alright,’ says Nahum. ‘This has happened before.’
Susan takes Steve away, leaving Nahum – in his wheelchair – to clear up the mess and the butler.
29:17 Susan takes some food up to her mum.
‘Quiet!’ says Letitia. ‘Listen… yes.. YES…’
I can’t hear anything, though.
30:17 Meanwhile, Steve is flipping through some dusty tomes in the library and wondering whether to get out his crayons. He hears something tapping at the window. Ignores it. Carries on flipping. This particular best seller is called: The Cult of the Outer Ones (I think I saw the film) – signed by Corbin Witley, preface saying something about cursed ground yaddah yaddah being destroyed etcetera. More interesting than the story about Helga’s earring, though.
30:47 Susan is primping her hair by a mirror. She gets a funny feeling, turns round and screams…. a caped figure is pressed up against the window, much like those joke Garfield the cat figures you see on car windows sometimes. Susan runs into Steve.
‘Are you sure you weren’t imagining things?’ he says.
‘I don’t know. There’s something about this house. Something …. SMOTHERING me,’ she says.
But she can’t leave because of her mum and all her health problems.
They hug it out, and it’s quite romantic – until over Steve’s shoulder Susan sees the caped figure at the window again. When Steve turns to look, the figure’s gone. ‘It’s your imagination’ he says. He recommends getting some rest. (I recommend getting another boyfriend.)
They kiss – in a particularly smothering way, it has to be said.
33:00 Close up of Letitia’s dreadful hand reaching through the drapes to snuff out a candle. (They edit out the swearing and the hiss as she plunges her hand into a glass of water.)
33:18 Night. The house is asleep – except for the director, creeping about.
Suddenly there’s an unearthly shriek.
Steve is still up, flipping through picture books. He goes out to investigate. Susan comes out in her negligee and furry slippers. They go downstairs. Pause halfway when they hear more shrieking. I’m more scared about the candle Susan’s holding – how close she comes to setting Steve’s hair products ablaze.
Down in the lobby they stop when they hear a crash. Steve takes the candle from Susan (anxious about his hair). You get a close-up of their feet – his shiny shoes, her furry slippers. Or maybe they switched. Anyway, it’s a shot I enjoy quite a bit.
A log snaps and jumps out of the fireplace. They shrug and carry on.
They come to a door that leads to Merwyn’s room. They open it. They go in.
(Packing five minutes of drama into roughly five years of footage).
… which Nahum opens!
(I’m guessing the director was really into Advent Calendars and Cuckoo clocks as a kid).
Nahum is all sweaty and worked up, so …. awks.
‘You shouldn’t have come down here!’ he says.
‘But the screaming! And the noise!’ says Susan.
Like I say – awks.
‘It’s Merwyn. He’s dead,’ says Nahum. ‘Now go back to bed.’
Despite their protests he slams the door shut, wheels himself back into his room and takes a slug of wine. (I don’t know what that is in units.)
Steve wants to take Susan away immediately, but she asks him not to cause trouble, kisses him goodnight, and takes her slippers back to bed.
37:42 Steve goes off to cause trouble.
He creeps downstairs (Downstairs? I thought they were upstairs? Who designed this mansion – Max Escher?)
He hears a rustling behind a door. Then some other dubious sound effects. Then Nahum shuffles out, pushing a cabinet on his wheelchair.
Steve follows him.
(NOTE: you can tell Steve is a man of action because although he’s wearing a shirt the cuffs are rolled up one turn at the wrist).
Nahum wheels the cabinet outside into the froggy fog.
Steve takes the opportunity to do some more exploring. A room where everything’s a mess. Pictures askew (which isn’t a phrase you see that often), and worse – the outline of a charred corpse on the carpet.
Steve’s entire face pouts. He knows about carpets, how difficult that’ll be to put right.
He goes outside to follow Nahum, who surely couldn’t have gotten far.
Sees him digging a grave.
(If there was one thing Boris Karloff was put on this earth to do – apart from saying sundry sibilant spooky things with a lisp – it’s digging a grave at night in the fog. So enjoy.)
Steve looks back, because he hears a ghostly noise coming from a greenhouse illuminated by a green light (natch). There’s so much going on in the Witley place at night. No wonder everyone’s slow at dinner.
Steve’s torn between watching Nathum dig a grave or investigating the ghostly greenhouse. He pouts a while, then goes for the greenhouse.
40:39 Damn! Another padlock (which he lifts up to look at).
Nahum hears him fiddling with the lock and starts staggering in his direction, giving Steve plenty of time to hide.
But no! He decides to get in his wheelchair and scoot across there instead. All that digging wore him out.
Outside the greenhouse, Nahum looks at the padlock. Damn! But at least it wasn’t a spider. Then he sees a light on in the mansion. Steve sees it, too. They both head in that direction, but Steve gets there first. Runs up the staircase (which Nahum will struggle with, I’m guessing).
41:50 Steve jumps into bed fully clothed and pulls the bedclothes over himself, just as Nahum opens the door and wheels himself in (how did he get there so quickly?). Whilst Steve pretends to be asleep, Nahum feels his candlestick (the most awkward thing he’s done the whole film). Seems happy with the result. Wheels himself out again.
43:15 Next morning is foggy with a chance of frog. Steve is back in his trenchcoat, striding purposefully across the lawns. He means business. The caped figure watches as he marches across the bridge. The caped figure yells as he strides off onto the blasted heath. The caped figure sneaks up on him. Lunges at him with a knife. Steve does a judo chop – gets a glimpse of the caped figure’s face, just before it runs off. Steve pouts, flexes his shoulder, then carries on into Arkham, maybe to see a physiotherapist, not sure.
44:35 Steve goes into a phone box. He’s overlooked by the cabbage woman, who obviously doesn’t approve of strange Americans using phone boxes. I don’t think the phone works, though. Maybe there’s no signal. Whatever the reason, he comes straight out again.
45:13 Knocks on the door of a house near the church (sorry I can’t be more specific).
A severe woman answers. It’s probably why she moved to Arkham. She fit right in.
‘Yes?’ she says.
‘Is the doctor in?’
(Let’s hope it’s a script doctor)
She frowns, then leads him through to a room and leaves him there. He stands around with his hands in his pockets. Then he wanders around having a nose. Eventually, after about three weeks, the doctor comes in. (It’s Patrick Magee! Worth catching the film just to hear his voice!)
The first thing the doctor does is unscrew a bottle of whiskey and pour them both a drink. My kinda doctor. He’s also smoking. I’m surprised he hasn’t got a needle of heroin dangling out of his arm.
The doctor doesn’t want to hear about the goings-on at the Witley place. Steve gets riled up by this. He might have seen a murder, after all.
‘Murder!’ sneers the doctor, taking another slug of Bells. ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you – now go away.’
The receptionist shows Steve to the door whilst he drinks another half a bottle.
On the way out, the receptionist says how the doctor’s never been the same since Corbin Witley died in his arms. She says the cause of death was cerebral haemorrhage. And another thing, she says. No one in the village saw the body – except for the doctor. And another significant plot point… says the surprisingly expositional receptionist. It’s obviously how she got the job. ‘Must have shorthand & typing, and be good at exposition.’
Steve leaves (which is almost as good as Nick knocks, but not quite)
48:15 Back at the Witley place. Susan is knocking at Letitia’s bedroom door but getting no reply. Nahum wheels up and takes over. We get to see the other side of the door – the room in disarray, pictures askew, drapes thrown back. Hmm.
48:56 Cut to: Steve and Susan arm in arm walking over the bridge.
‘But Steve!’ she says. ‘No one EVER goes to the greenhouse at night…’
‘Then why was there a light?’
‘Yeah – a light. The only word I can think of is “glowed”’
(All that flipping through books we saw earlier begins to make sense now)
They decide to go to the greenhouse to have a look.
49:52 Nahum is still outside Letitia’s bedroom trying to talk sense into her. We can see her, though, cowering by the window. She turns – and we see that the side of her face is disfigured.
50:24 Steve and Susan lift up the padlock. Locked! Rattle the chains.
Susan says she knows another way in.
51:14 They pull off some planks and sneak into the greenhouse. It’s filled with enormous and colourful plants.
‘How could they grow like this?’
They wander round looking at the enormous tomatoes and such – then get spooked by another ghastly noise.
Steve investigates. He looks in the potting shed.
‘It’s dark in there – except for a kind of… glow’
‘Oh Steve!’ says Susan, tugging his shirt.
They creep into the potting shed.
In the foreground, you can see what looks like a giant puppy behind some bars. Susan hasn’t seen it yet, but when she does…
There’s a flickering light in a structure in the centre of the room.
‘Some kind of energy – must be uranium,’ says Steve.
They hear the scream again. Steve lifts up a shovel of uranium to light things up – and we see creatures behind the bars. Not puppies – more like octopuses crossed with puppies. Octopups? Puptopuses?
‘It looks like a zoo in hell!’ snarls Steve.
Back out in the greenhouse, Steve gives a little talk about genetic engineering and radioactive mutation.
‘The smell! It’s sickening!’ says Susan.
‘It’s the effect of decay!’ says Steve, hoping she’s not talking about him.
Steve digs up some more nuclear stuff from one of the pots.
‘I wonder if it’s an element?’ he says. ‘It’s giving off heat!’
He carries on talking about the effects of exposure to these rocks, whilst a living plant sneaks up on Susan. She screams as she’s grabbed by the curlies or ivy or whatever it is. Steve struggles with the plant. Finds a machete and gets to work. Then hauls her out of the greenhouse after kicking through the padlocked door (Steve can be dynamic when he has to be – especially if his shirt sleeves are rolled one turn at the wrist).
56:35 Back in the mansion, Nahum is busy wheeling himself around again – back to Letitia’s bedroom door. She’s still not answering.
Meanwhile, Susan shows Steve the door down to the crypt.
‘Be careful, Steve,’ says Susan.
57:30 Steve takes about a year to sneak down the crypt steps, doing the same studio tour we did with Merwyn about a million years ago. Eventually he opens a door – and a skeleton shrieks and jumps out! But actually …. it’s just a skeleton on a chain, swinging quite happily, so that’s alright. Steve carries on nosing around.
Meanwhile, Susan has gone to find her Dad. She tells him about the greenhouse. He’s furious. He grabs her wrist and demands to know where Steve is. When she says the crypt, he wheels off furiously. (This part must’ve been a real workout for Boris).
59: 00 Back in the crypt, Steve is wandering around looking shifty in his snappy shirt. In fact, he looks quite a lot like George Bush jnr.
Suddenly he’s assailed by bats. Horrible rubber things, on elastic strings! Maybe they came from the same prop shop as the skelington. Steve is basically on a ghost train, only without the train.
He takes in the decor of the gothic waffle room – the skulls and devil motifs and whatnot. The waffle maker is in full swing, blue light, mist. Approach with caution.
Suddenly Nahum is there!
‘Get out of this room!’ he says.
Steve tells Nahum he has GOT to get rid of all this nuclear shit (paraphrasing here).
‘Look at the way it glows!’ he says, pointing to it. ‘And hums!’
1:00:19 A scream!
Steve runs back up the stairs. Nahum takes the lift.
Steve finds Susan collapsed on the landing. He slaps her to wake her up (his first aid skills up there with his nuclear knowledge).
She says she heard her mum smashing things, then the door flew open, she screamed and doesn’t remember anything else.
Steve helps her up. They start to open lots of doors to find Letitia.
A lightning storm begins.
The front doors blow open.
Nahum wheels himself around the place, calling out Letitia! Letitia! (It’s that or he’s caught a chill). Steve & Susan open MORE doors. It’s basically like being shown around a house by estate agents on crack.
They open another door – and the caped figure lunges out!
Chases them down the stairs.
They run into a room and lock the door. The caped figure starts to rattle the handle (where are the padlocks when you need them?).
The caped figure smashes through a panel and looks through. It looks like the lead singer from Kiss. It chases Steve around a table until he lamps it with a candlestick. Gets up and goes again. Throws a chair. No good. He’s got his back to the patio doors. The creature lunges – Steve steps to the side – it falls onto the patio. But because it’s exposed to the light, it’s killed. It rolls back inside – just as Nahum – erm – rolls back inside.
They all watch as the creature’s face dissolves like an overdone jam roly poly. Susan bites her knuckle, so we’re spared a scream. Nahum looks peeved.
‘Please take Susan away!’ he says.
1:06:16 Time has passed. They’re gathered around Letitia’s grave in the cemetery.
‘I ignored her entreaties,’ says Nahum, lispishly. ‘And now she has paid for Corbin’s blasphemies’.
Basically – in this scene – we learn that the radioactive rocks ‘fell from the sky’ – something that Nahum thinks was a family curse and the work of the Devil, but Steve glows – sorry, knows – as a scientist – that what they’re actually dealing with is a meteorite.
I’m surprised they didn’t get the doctor’s receptionist in to explain all this. She’d have done a much better job (and left promptly when she’d done)
Turns out, Nahum isn’t a satanist but just an ambitious market gardener, using depleted uranium instead of MiracleGro.
‘Will you take Susan away please!’ says Nahum.
‘What about you?’ says Steve.
‘I will stay here to destroy this monstrous thing.’
‘C’mon Susan. Let’s go and pack,’ says Steve (he’s only got one suitcase, so don’t worry).
1:09:09 Nahum heads back down to the crypt. Back onto the stair lift. Mercifully it doesn’t seem to take him so long this time to get to the waffle room.
He takes a big ol’ axe off the wall. Staggers up onto the plinth. Works the pulley to lift the waffle maker lid. There’s a great deal of glowing and humming (which Steve wouldn’t like). Nahum chops at the radioactive core, which looks like a toffee apple, so pretty realistic.
Then he turns to see Helga, the caped figure, advancing on him with a carving knife.
Nahum chops at her with the axe, misses, Helga drops the knife and takes the axe. After a lot of shuffling around the plinth, she eventually lunges at him, misses, and goes headfirst into the radioactive apple, screaming.
1:11:13 Back up in the bedroom, Steve and Susan are packing. They hear the scream.
‘Stay here!’ says Steve, and runs back down to the crypt.
1:11:31 Nahum’s face is glowing in green patches. I’m no nuclear scientist, but even I know that’s not good.
All his veins glow green. He seems to be morphing into a radioactive brussel sprout.
‘Mr Witley!’ shouts Steve, running into the awful waffle chamber.
Steve sees a glowing green handprint on the wall.
(All this stuff is putting me RIGHT off nuclear energy)
Steve follows the handprints through the cellar.
Then suddenly radioactive Nahum springs out, his hands out in front of him, his fingers spread, in classic Mummy style! Welcome back, Boris!
He chases Steve back up the steps, ignoring all the baskets and shit Steve tosses at him to slow him down.
Steve slams the crypt door and locks it – but Nahum bashes through it no problem.
Steve grabs Susan.
‘C’mon’ he says.
They locks themselves in the bedroom.
Steve picks a handy antique club off the wall just as Nahum bashes through the bedroom door no problem.
Nahum chases Steve round the room. Steve chucks the club and sundry other things. Picks up an axe – but turns out he’s even worse with an axe than Helga. He chops a table in half – which would be impressive, if he didn’t fall to the floor immediately after.
‘Run, Susan! Run!’ he says. Nahum stands over him waiting for the director to shout something.
Eventually Nahum decides to chase Susan rather than finish off Steve.
Steve picks up the axe again and goes back after him (good luck with that, Steve).
Nahum lunges at Susan on the balcony. She dodges to one side. Nahum bashes through the balustrades no problem, but then plummets down into the foyer, where he catches fire. Susan is so busy screaming she slips and almost follows her father, but Steve drags her back. They hug on the landing as Nahum burns.
They run out of the mansion as it all goes up in flames.
They hug in the gardens.
‘C’mon Susan. We’re going and we’re not looking back!’
‘I don’t understand, Steve. Why did all this have to happen?’ (You and me both, Susan)
‘I don’t think it had to happen,’ says Steve. ‘In the proper scientific hands your father’s discovery could’ve been beneficial. But in the hands of this director it was just so much radioactive fruit (okay I added that line)’
They run off hand in hand.
Close up of Corbin Witley’s portrait burning, which doesn’t improve it
as the music swells
…and that’s it!
So what’ve we learned?
- Science is risky, but if you MUST do it, roll your sleeves a little.
- Axes are trickier than they look
- Padlocks. The action man’s curse.
- If something hums AND glows, it’s probably worth hanging back a bit.
- If you stop off in a quaint little village but the taxi driver won’t take you, and the Greengrocer won’t sell you fruit, and the bike hire place won’t hire you a bike – QUIT. It’s not worth it.