second feature to stake a claim in Lovecraftian territory
is another AIP production, Die Monster Die. A loose (one might
say unrestrained, unconfined, and unyoked) adaptation of HPL's
"The Colour out of Space," a story cited in O'Brien's Best
Short Stories of 1927.
Unlike his low opinion of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,
Lovecraft was very proud of "The Colour out of Space" calling
it "my best tale" and "the only one of the lot which I take
any pride in." The story was immediately accepted by Hugo
Gernsback and first published in Amazing Stories, earning
Howard the princely sum of $25.
Die Monster Die starred Boris Karloff and was directed by
the art director of The Haunted Palace, Daniel Haller. The
most Lovecraftian element appears right up front: a title
sequence of swirling cosmic colors looking like the stargate
trip of 2001: A Space Odyssey, invoking the feeling of the
short story's "shining bands unlike any known colours of the
From there Jerry Sohl's script takes a hard left, doing
The Haunted Palace one better by not only changing the time
period but the continent as well, setting the story in the
backwater shire of Arkham, England.
The movie opens as B-movie mainstay Nick Adams, starring
as the American trenchcoat-wearing "science student" Stephen
Reinhart, steps off the train at Arkham Station searching
for his fiancÍ Susan Witley. Actress Suzan Farmer, wearing
a wonderfully tight sweater, really stands out in her role
as Miss Witley (but we're getting ahead of ourselves).
Science student Reinhart might as well be looking for Castle
Dracula by the way the pasty-faced villagers shut up when
he asks directions to Witley Manor; they deny him cab, car
and even bicycle, forcing him to travel by foot.
On the long walk through the English countryside, Reinhart
happens by a large impact crater dug deep into the earth,
an impressive matte painting of the "blasted heath" of Lovecraft's
original: a five-acre area where plants refuse to grow.
At the huge Witley Manor, Reinhart is as unwelcome as he
was in Arkham. The wheelchair-bound lord of the manor, Nahum
Witley (played by Boris Karloff, who looks sadly ill just
four years before his death) demands that he leave. But Susan
joyfully welcomes Stephen with a quick tour of her ancestral
portraits, pointing out a devilish picture of Grandfather
Corbin Witleywho was best known for going insane.
Something is not quite right at the manor.
At dinner, terrible screams are served with the mutton and
the sickly butler Merwyn collapses while cutting his master's
meat. Reinhart is very concerned, but Nahum says that this
kind of thing has happened before and he knows what to do.
That night the hapless Merwyn dies, leaving behind a weird
stain on the bedroom floor. This really piques the science
student's curiosity and he follows Nahum into the garden,
secretly watching the old man burying what's left of the butler.
Mysterious lights from the Manor's greenhouse distract the
wary science guy because it's the kind of thing he's seen
in a science lab . . . the deadly glow of radiation.
With Susan's help, he breaks into the locked greenhouse
and discovers a bit more of Lovecraft's original story: a
crop of really big plants. They see row upon row of unearthly
vegetation bearing abnormally large fruit, growing, as Lovecraft
wrote, "to phenomenal size and unwonted gloss." This Eden
turns hellish as more screams are heard and Reinhart sees
a radioactive glow under the closed door of the potting shed.
Inside, the couple discovers a menagerie of deformed and distorted
creatures, weird things that whimper, pant, and howl.
They quickly deduce that glowing stones are the source of
the mutations. Reinhart thinks these smaller stones have been
chipped from a larger one. As they ponder where that larger
rock might be the plants come alive, wrapping vines around
the already tight sweater of Ms. Witley, forcing Reinhart
to bypass the angora and remove the pesky greenery instead.
Back at Witley Manor, Susan's sickly mother Letitia mutates
into Lovecraft's description of Nabby Gardner, a woman on
whom "something was fastening . . . that ought not to be."
Letitia becomes a terrible screaming thing, "a blasphemous
monstrosity," Lovecraft wrote, "(a) horror (that) moved as
it continued to crumble."
A crumbled wife is too much even for Nahum, and he finally
explains the mystery of Witley Manor. The radioactive stone
is no random colour out of space, it is a thing sent by his
father, the evil wizard Corbin: a curse, much like the curse
of Curwen, meant to terrorize the town of Arkham.
Nahum had wanted to use the powers of Corbin's meteorite
to make Arkham a paradise, a new Eden filled with giant fruit
and greenery, but the unrelenting death and mutation it has
brought finally makes him see the error of his ways.
The big glowing and humming space rock is kept in the Manor's
cellar, hidden in a pit below a skull-shaped guillotine surrounded
by primitive wall paintings of pentacles and devils.
As Nahum sets out to smash the meteorite, he's attacked
and pushed onto the rock by the family's long-lost and very-mutated
maid, Helga. In a genuinely creepy scene the "colour" that
came out of space works its way inside Nahum's veins, illuminating
them like an injection of alien barium.
Reinhart comes searching for Nahum and finds a series of
handprints ominously glowing on the stone walls of the dark
cellar. It becomes a radioactive blood trail leading to a
completely transformed Nahum: a green and glowing aberration
that looks like the spawn of Nosferatu, the Frankenstein Monster,
and a roll of Reynolds Wrap, giving the aged Karloff one last
opportunity to somewhat reprise his most-famous role.
The radioactive Witley shambles after Reinhart, but meets
his doom by tumbling over the upstairs banister. Upon contact
with the floor he bursts into sparkles and flames, motivation
for yet another trademark AIP inferno.
The manor burns, and more importantly, so does the sinister
portrait of old wizard Corbin who has been silently watching
the proceedings from beyond, bringing this textbook example
of the walking-around-endlessly-in-a-big-house school of filmmaking
to a merciful end.