THE DUNWICH HORROR
Prior to Re-Animator, H.P. Lovecraft was not much in vogue on cinema screens. There had been several Lovecraft adaptations made during the 1960s but these seemed only made as distaff cousins to Roger Cormans cycle of Edgar Allan Poe films. Of the four Lovecraft adaptations made during this period, curiously enough Dunwich Horror director Daniel Haller was involved with all three as production designer on The Haunted Palace (1963) and as director of both Die, Monster, Die!/Monster of Terror (1965) and The Dunwich Horror here.
The Dunwich Horror is based on Lovecrafts 1928 short story of the same name, although has been substantially adapted (there is no equivalent of Sandra Dees character in the story, for instance). The film starts promisingly. The opening credits, filled with metamorphosing shapes on animated midnight blue backgrounds and an impending Les Baxter score, are fine. Iimmediately after this however, the film takes a big nosedive like the minute the live-action opens with the deadening line: Why dont you take this copy of The Necronomicon and return it to the library? One can clearly sense that dear old H.P. Lovecraft is in for a rough time. Not too surprisingly, one is proved right. Certainly, the climax conjures something of Lovecrafts sense of sense of occultic rituals to call up Elder Gods and at least comes closer in style to Lovecraft than any of the post-Re-Animator ilk. However, Daniel Hallers directorial style is flat and lacking in any depth of character of subtlety. Everything takes place at a slow, plodding, nondescript pace.
Indeed, with the addition of afro-headed, 1960s drug hallucinations, H.P. Lovecraft might have some difficulty recognizing his story. Ed Begley [Sr]s gruff, painfully dogged intonations as the savant figure is rather awful. Although, that is not as bad as the films being lumbered with Sandra Dee, the former bubbly teen sensation in various Gidget and Tammy films, as the virginal sacrifice of the show.
The story was remade as The Dunwich Horror (2009) starring Jeffrey Combs as Wilbur and with Dean Stockwell making a return appearance this time in the role of Armitage.
Director Daniel Haller was originally a production designer on numerous Roger Corman films of the 1950s and 60s. Haller made his directorial debut with the other H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965). Haller would make a total of six films as director and then worked in television up until his retirement at the end of the 1980s. His one other venture into genre material as director was the theatrical remake of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979).
Other films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft include:- The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965) and The Shuttered Room (1966). The big success in the modern era was Stuart Gordons splattery black comedy version of Re-Animator (1985), which popularised Lovecraft on film. This led to a host of B-budget Lovecraft adaptations, including Stuart Gordons subsequent From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), The Unnameable (1988), The Resurrected (1992), Necronomicon (1993), The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Gordons Dagon (2001), and other works such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006), Cool Air (2006), Chill (2007), Cthulu (2007), The Tomb (2007), Colour from the Dark (2008), Pickmans Muse (2010) and The Whisperer in Darkness (2011). Also of interest is The Manitou (1978), which features an appearance of the Great Old One; Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) and its sequel Witch Hunt (1994), a tv movie set in an alternate world where magic works and where the central character is a detective named H.P. Lovecraft; Juan Piquer Simons cheap and loosely inspired Cthulu Mansion (1992); John Carpenters Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the fan parodies The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulu (2009) and Call Girl of Cthulu (2014); even an animated childrens film Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) in which a young Lovecraft encounters his own creations; while the Elder Gods turn up at the end of The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Lovecrafts key work of demonic lore The Necronomicon also makes appearances in films such as Equinox (1970), The Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), and was also borrowed as an alternate retitling for Jesus Francos surreal and otherwise unrelated Succubus/Necronomicon (1969) about a BDSM dancer.