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FANATIC (AKA: Die! Die! My Darling!)(director: Silvio Narizzano; screenwriters: Anne Blaisdell (novel “Nightmare”)/Richard Matheson; cinematographer: Arthur Ibbetson; editor: James Needs; cast: Tallulah Bankhead (Mrs. Trefoile), Donald Sutherland (Joseph), Stefanie Powers (Pat Carroll), Peter Vaughan (Harry), Gwendolyn Watts (Gloria), Maurice Kaufmann (Alan Glentower ), Yootha Joyce (Anna); Runtime: 96; Hammer; 1965-UK)
“As crazy as the tale was, it all seemed possible.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

For a Hammer film, this one is about as good as it gets. It’s a bizarre psychological story with lots of Hitchcock’s Psycho in it; a disturbing film about a hostage situation involving an insane religious fanatic. Tallulah Bankhead plays the Bible quoting Mrs. Trefoile, in an over-the top performance that is both frightening and amusing.

The attractive Pat Carroll (Powers) is returning to London with her soon to be husband, Alan Glentower (Maurice Kaufmann), and instead of spending the night with him as he wishes, she plans to take a drive in the country and pay a short visit with the mother of the boy she was previously engaged to. Steven was her only son and committed suicide, so out of politeness Pat feels obliged to pay Mrs. Trefoile a courtesy call.

Little does Pat realize what she is getting herself into. When she meets Mrs. Trefoile for the first time, she quickly determines the woman is as nutty as a fruitcake. Mrs. Trefoile is always preaching from the Scriptures, making Pat attend lengthy private church services in the house, forcing her to wear no lipstick, not allowing mirrors in the house, and not allowing condiments to be served with the meal. The servants are either crazy or perversely evil. Anna (Yootha) is married to Harry (Vaughan), who lied to the old lady that he’s a relative on her deceased husband’s side. Harry has worked for Mrs. Trefoile the last 16 years planning to rip her off and inherit her wealth when she dies. The other worker is the mentally impaired Joseph (Sutherland), who is clueless.

When Pat plans to leave after her unpleasant overnight stay, she is instead locked in her room after foolishly telling Mrs. Trefoile about her new fianc√©. She’s told by Mrs. Trefoile that she must be redeemed for her son in heaven and be saved from her sinful soul. That there is still hope for her because she’s a virgin. Mrs. Trefoile considers Pat to be Steven’s wife forever and will not permit her to ever leave and be with another man again. Soon Mrs. Trefoile ups the stakes and goes for a human sacrifice.

Warning: spoiler to follow in the next paragraph.

The tacky hostage situation forces the frightened Pat to come up with all sorts of plans to escape, but they all prove futile. But her ‘Knight in Shining Armor,’ Alan, comes to her rescue.

This Grand Guignol piece is excellently scripted by Richard Matheson, from the novel “Nightmare” by Anne Blaisdell. As crazy as the tale was, it all seemed possible.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”