on October 19, 2013 at 7:13 pm
While channel surfing late last night, I came across this on the Movies! Channel (an OTA channel run by Fox apparently, as I’ve only seen it mentioned there). A 1965 Hammer release, with the U.K. version titled Fanatic, DDMD, may be a lesser known title, but it’s not for the lack of trying.
While on a visit to England to England with her British fiancé , Patricia Carroll decides to visit the mother of her previous bf while they were together. Dodgy setup aside, once she arrives at a rundown mansion, and meets the mother, Mrs. Trefoile, she is talked into spending the night and attending services the next morning.
Carroll is a modern woman in every sense of the word, and as played by Stefanie Powers (Hart to Hart), her reactions to situations while often a tad on the slow side, seem to be believable. Having said that, you really have to not think very hard and just go with the flow. Powers does a great job as the victimized ex gf, yet never succumbs to the helpless woman that seemed to flourish at the time. She’s smart, and mostly independent (having to rely on her bf to get her out of the situations seems a bit too pat) and you root for her every step of the way.
The star of the show is, without a doubt, Tallulah Bankhead. In her last feature film role, she delivers an over the top performance that would rival anything from Bette Davis or Joan Crawford in the latter stages of their career. Indeed, I could imagine either of those two delivering the same lines as Ms. Bankhead, but neither would be able to match the sheer venom and menace that she exudes.
When first seen, Mrs. Trefoile seems to be the epitome of British decorum and reserve. Devoutly religious, she’s also deeply devoted and devastated by the loss of her son (who she keeps a shrine to in the basement). When informed by Carroll she had no intentions of marrying her son, Trefoile snaps, locks Carroll up, and begins a systematic abuse to purge and purify her soul, for marriage to her son in the afterlife.
In spite of the gun the matron carries, she’s helped by her staff, who obey ever order without question, including a pair of married caretakers played admirably by Yootha Joyce and Maurice Kaufman.Donald Sutherland also makes an appearance as the simple minded handyman Joseph. It’s a role that could have easily been a throwaway, but Sutherland imbues him with a pathos and empathy, that he steals most every scene he’s in.
The script, written by the late and legendary Richard Matheson, doesn’t miss a beat. While it may not be his best writing (it’s based on the book by Anne Blaisdell), it’s still a worthy credit, and his dialog is top notch. Adding to this better than average thriller is the direction of Silvio Narizzano. DDMD is beautiful to look at, the sets gorgeous and appropriately Gothic, and the cinematography well done.
DDMD isn’t a classic, but it’s a very nice way to spend 90 minutes of your time, especially for Bankhead’s over the top performance. Incidentally, I found out that Stephanie Powers is now starring in a play titled Looped, about a day when it took Tallulah Bankhead 8 hours to rerecord one line of dialog because she was drunk. Now that’s something I’d love to see.