Apparently placed on a shelf for several years after it was completed, the slow-moving thriller Die, Sister, Die! must have struck audiences as hopelessly old-fashioned when it was finally released in 1978—the movie doesn’t come close to delivering the type of sexually charged supernatural scares promised by the lurid poster art. In some respects, Die, Sister, Die! feels like an artifact from the genteel 1930s, perhaps because that's when composer Hugo Friedhofer, who created the picture’s dense orchestral score, began his career. However, don’t let the preceding description get you thinking that Die, Sister, Die! is some classical shocker in the Hitchcock mold; that level of narrative sophistication is well beyond the powers of producer-director Randall Hood and his collaborators. This forgettable picture offers nothing more than a creaky murder story, so while it’s not a screamingly bad cinematic experience, it’s so predictable and sluggish and stodgy that it disappears from memory immediately after it concludes, if not sooner.
Here’s the setup. After aging society lady Amanda (Edith Atwater) attempts suicide, her craven brother, Edward (Jack Ging), fumes because her survival means he cannot collect the family inheritance. Edward hires a nurse, Esther (Antoinette Bower), who has a checkered past—she was driven from a previous job amid accusations of malfeasance. Edward instructs Esther to “let nature take its course” should Amanda attempt suicide again, offering a share of the inheritance in exchange. Complicating matters are Esther’s conscience, the investigative labors of a local physician, and Amanda’s personal demons. The reasons why Amanda wishes to die stem from intrigue involving Edward, their father, and a third sibling.
Strangely, had the filmmakers exercised even more restraint—up to and including a different title—Die, Sister, Die! could have become a decent suspense picture. Alas, it suffers the familiar neither-fish-nor-fowl syndrome, because it’s too trashy for discriminating viewers and not trashy enough for the grindhouse crowd. Oh, well. At least Friedhofer’s sturdy score is a pleasant sonic throwback.
Die, Sister, Die!: FUNKY