March 28, 2007

H.P. Lovecraft movies - the older ones

An introduction to a series of reviews for the oldest movie adaptions of Lovecraft's works...

There was a time when adaptions of the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft could be counted on one hand. I sought them all out because of their reported potency, and the horrors he described were unique and terrifying.


The Haunted Palace (1963)
Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
The Shuttered Room (1967)
Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)
The Dunwich Horror (1969)

...as well as two adaptions for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1971) compendium TV series (the Cool Air and Pickman’s Model segments)


...used to be all the Lovecraft there was to see.



The other major inspiration in American horror literature, Edgar Allan Poe, quickly had many of his titles plundered in the 1960’s, but filmmakers braked sharply when moving onto Lovecraft, because many of his stories were considered “unfilmable”. Lovecraft’s trump card was his medium – on paper, the viewer imagines what he describes, sometime huge, sometimes vague, always nasty. If you have an imagination, a cinema screen can’t possibly better it.

I still have a fondness for these 'Old Ones', the early entries in the Lovecraft filmography, and am currently drawn to watching them again -reviews will be appearing here shortly.

When I sought out horror movies on TV in the seventies, I’d rewatch these five films on TV to wring out any elements of Lovecraft, though sometimes there’s very few to find. If you ignore the often disappointing climaxes and unworthy special effects, the premise of each movie still evokes an unusal atmosphere, albeit mostly updated to modern dress.

Having watched all five films, The Shuttered Room is easily the best film, but the least Lovecraftian. The Dunwich Horror would be the most Lovecraftian story but is set in modern times. The Haunted Palace looks suitably gothic, and is in period dress. Take your pick.



A further slew of adaptions in the 1980’s, helped by a surge of low-budget cinema to fuel the videotape boom, like The Unnamable (1988) and From Beyond (1986
), were an equally mixed bag. Re-Animator (1985) is easily the best of this next wave, though director Stuart Gordon struggled valiantly on to try and match it for many years.



Now in an age of CGI when you can put anything you can imagine onto the screen, a host of new filmmakers are doing their best to tackle Lovecraft again, hence the Unfilmable website with news of a raft of recent and future adaptions of the works of H.P.L., and an extensive list of past efforts and possible influences. Proof that Lovecraft’s influence over horror cinema is far-reaching, and definitely thick-bookworthy.

A shorter, rather more 1990’s guide to Lovecraft cinema is on this website here, summarising the contents of the reference book, The Lurker in the Lobby.



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4 comments:

  1. While some the 1980's Lovecraft were reallly bad (ie: Re-Animator & From Beyond), and the Unnameable was at least watchable, nowadays we have great Lovecraft movies in The Call of Cthulhu, Die Farbe, and The Whisperer in Darkness

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  2. While some the 1980's Lovecraft were reallly bad (ie: Re-Animator & From Beyond), and the Unnameable was at least watchable, nowadays we have great Lovecraft movies in The Call of Cthulhu, Die Farbe, and The Whisperer in Darkness,

    Dan

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  3. @Dan All those movies you just mentioned are pretty crappy though. Far worse than the ones you claim are bad.

    I find it amazing sometimes how people will cling to obscure or indie movies and swear they are better than their more popular counterparts. Without taking a critical eye to the films and waving their flags moreso out of their obscurity and indieness than any sort of inherent quality.

    The acting in The Whisperer of Darkness is especially atrocious and has no real use of black and white other than to call to the fact that what it was based on was an old author. How every lazy.

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  4. I've yet to see something as good and more recent than REANIMATOR.

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