Monday, October 22, 2007

YOG-SOTHOTH!!! YOG-SOTHOTH!!! YOG-SOTHOTH WANTS SOME POPCORN so we can watch today's Halloweenie movie: 1970's "THE DUNWICH HORROR". This is another one of those movies which I watched to death on Channel 48's Creature Double Feature back in the 70's. Of course, it's also an adaptation of the master H.P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name. Nowhere near a SUCCESSFUL adaptation but still a lot of fun to watch and quite interesting. Daniel Haller, the cameraman who shot those Poe movies for Roger Corman, graduated to director and this movie is a lot better than his previous stint directing "Die, Monster, Die" (another Lovecraft adaptation -- this time of "The Colour Out of Space"). "THE DUNWICH HORROR" is a lot more enjoyable.
We've got the prologue with Old Whateley (Sam Jaffe) using the hapless Lavinia Whateley as a gateway for the Old Gods to return to earth. He fails, of course, but Lavinia gives birth to Wilbur Whately (suitably "goatish" Dean Stockwell) as well as a tentacled monstrosity which is kept locked in an attic room. Scene's set for fun and games already, ain't it? Then we get the animated credit sequence for the film -- and I was right it IS done by the same designer who did the credits for "BLACULA". Sandy Dvore: her other credits include the animated opening credits for The Partridge Family TV show (!). Fast forward to the present day (1970 of course) where Wilbur is trying to borrow the dreaded Necronomicon from Prof. Armitage (Ed Begley). He makes goo-goo eyes at librarian Nancy (Sandra Dee) (or is that ghoul-ghoul eyes?!?) and wangles a ride home from her. Once at the dilapidated Whately house, wonderful Wilbur drugs her tea and yanks a wire out of her car engine so it won't start. She's gotta spend the night. He then slowly brings her under his power in order to try again with the "summoning Yog-Sothoth" bit.
Sandra Dee is perfect casting for this role since she was always known as the pinnacle of virginal blondehood. And that's just what Wilbur's looking for. By the end of the movie, he's got her lying on a stone altar atop an open air stone temple known as "The Devil's Hopyard". Sadly, the glimpses of Ms. Dee's undraped form we see are those of a body double. But the film makes up for that by having Stockwell use his two pinky rings on either side of his face in the style of real-life "great beast" Aleister Crowley!
As a 70's version of H. P. Lovecraft (and this is apparently the first movie to actually trumpet Lovecraft's name), "THE DUNWICH HORROR" is a flawed but atmospheric stab at it. And since there have been almost no successful movie adaptations of Lovecraft (NEARLY successful -- but that's another story), I'll take this one for what it is.


Cheekies said...

I don't know dude, I have to disagree with you on this one. I've seen this movie three times. Each time I hated it a little less but still the last time I watched it I found it depessingly slow. Dean Stockwell's droning monotone nearly puts me to sleep. The monster is so disappointing, I mean to me it looks like a bunch or rubber snakes tied together. You don't really get a good look at it, ever, but when you do see it you know why they don't want you to get a good look at it. I would have loved to have liked this movie, the original story is excellent. One of my favorite Lovecraft stories, in fact. I think they tried to make too much out of it. I read that this was done once for the rado show "Suspence" many moons ago and it was very well done. Without much beng cut out. How did they stretch a story that can be done in a half hour on radio into a full length movie? The answer is a very dull answer, unfortunately. But on a totally different subjet, wanna see Rocky Horror again?

Cerpts said...

Oh, this movie can never be confused with the original story -- there can never be any comparison between Lovecraft's writing and any film version. As for hating it less each time you see it -- that just proves Dean Stockwell's pinky rings are having their effect and you should be loving this movie around the 8th viewing! Actually, far from finding it dull, I wish it could've been stretched to about 3 hours so I could spend a little more time in that wonderful Whately house set. I really don't understand the need people seem to have to have things "happen" in movies; actually that's usually where I begin to lose interest. Like in this film; I much prefer the first half before the so-called "action" starts; as soon as Wilbur's "brother" starts roaming the countryside killing people, my mind starts to wander too. It's kind of like when I read about historical events; I'm fascinated with the events leading up to World War I or World War II, for instance, right up until the actual war starts. Then I'm kinda bored. I guess it's because all the style and mood and atmosphere is center stage BEFORE the so-called action starts -- and once the "events" start having to be ticked off in the script, the attention to detail and mood usually gets forgotten in the rush to tie up these events. A mere plot is bloodless and "by the numbers" without characterization and atmosphere. IMHO.

Yet I for one quite like the Whateley monster -- AIP's notorious zero budgets forced them to be inventive and stylish with it and the psychedelic light show and colors combined with the extremely fast cutting almost pulls it off for me. But since I have absolutely no desire for anything in these movies to be "realistic", that's no surprise. I look at it in the same way I look at a stage play; the things shown are not documentary but merely suggested -- the monster stands in for or suggests something which cannot be shown. The "artfulness" of the filmmakers I can appreciate.

I in fact have that episode of Suspense; it starred Ronald Colman and, if you remember (some chance, eh?) I put a couple short snippets from it on a cerpts tape many moons ago. It was not a bad episode -- but in fact a half hour is not enough time to do the story justice so it felt EXTREMELY rushed.

And as for your totally different "subjet": suuuuuuuuuuure! But only if I get a bowl of Count Chocula while watching. Fuck the rice and toilet paper and newspaper. We're talking chocolaty goodness here!!!

Cheekies said...

of course you can have a big bowl of chocolatey goodness. so then is sunday good for you?

Weaverman said...

Oh, C'mon Cerpts! Yes, I like THE DUNWICH HORROR as much as you and I know that you know the difference between Daniel Haller and Floyd Crosby. Write out 100 times in blood of your own choosing "Daniel Haller was an Art Director not a Cinematographer"

Cerpts said...

Whoops! You're absolutely right. Give me 100 lashes with a wet Usher!