A young woman is terrorized by her fiance's demented mother who blames her for her son's death.
Fanatic (AKA: Die! Die! My Darling! is directed by Silvio Narizzano and adapted to screenplay by Richard Matheson from the novel "Nightmare" written by Anne Blaisdell. It stars Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland and Maurice Kaufmann. Music is by Wilfred Josephs and cinematography by Arthur Ibbetson.
Pat Carroll (Powers) decides to make a courtesy call on Mrs. Trefoile (Bankhead), the mother of the man she was courting seriously before his untimely death in an automobile accident. Her good intentions are not exactly welcomed with open arms, in fact Pat finds herself spun into a vortex of religious fanaticism and maternal madness.
Psycho-Biddy sub-genre meets Hammer Film's one word titled series of Psycho inspired thrillers, Fanatic is a thoroughly bonkers movie. Not in that it doesn't make sense or it is complex supreme, it's that it operates in some campy feverish world, a place where Baby Jane rests in peace. Unfortunately it's not as good as the other films that make up this wickedly entertaining sub-genre of horror.
That it's amazingly riveting is due to a bunch of cast performances that have to be seen to be believed. For even as the film meanders, where the makers repeatedly fall back on Pat Carroll's predicament with boorish time filling sequences, there's something enigmatically joyous about Bankhead and the crew making merry hell in this Hammeresque carnival of horrors.
Legend has it that Bankhead was permanently sozzled throughout the production, it matters not, always a tough old dame who never suffered fools gladly, it's a bravura performance that's rich with the excessiveness that the story demands. Joyce and Vaughan would become legends of situation comedies in Britain, but here they get to play seriously stern and creepy lecher respectively, with the latter tasked with waving his shotgun around as an unsubtle phallic erection!
Sutherland is woeful, but again it matters not, and it's actually not his fault, the character as written is a village idiot, a wet pants of a man purely in the story to fulfil the freak show quotient. Then there is the darling Powers, so young, sexy and vibrant, she escapes criticism because her performance is so measured it deflects from the preposterousness of it all.
Lipstick is banned, sex is banned, the colour red is banned and Religio Guignol is the order of the day. It's a film hard to recommend with any sort of confidence, but it's just nutty enough to make it worth seeking out as a curio piece. 6/10
Hammer Film Productions by Silvio Narizzano, Richard Matheson, Anne Blaisdell.
Stars: Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Maurice Kaufmann.
Genres: Horror, Thriller
Keywords: mother-in-law insanity hammer horror religious fanaticism hagsploitation
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