Lovecraftian Cinema

Discussion in 'General Film Discussion' started by j d worthington, Jul 5, 2006.

  1.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Okay, there's been a fair amount of notice taken lately of the small independent film The Call of Cthulhu, an exercise in silent film that is one of the most loving adaptations of a Lovecraft story ever put on film. But along with that has come some discussion of scattered other film adaptations of his work as well. Until the last few years, I'd have said there wasn't a lot of ground to cover here, but lately I've become aware that there actually is a tremendous amount of Lovecraftian cinema of one stripe or another. So I suggested the possibility of a thread on the topic, and sort of had it tossed back in my court. So here goes:

    I'd like to hear from different people about any Lovecraftian work they've seen in film; this doesn't need to be strictly about adaptations of his own stories, but can include Lovecraftian elements, borrowing of themes, etc. as well. There are also a couple of sites that list upcoming Lovecraft projects, and I'll be checking into them from time to time to see what's the latest news, and I'll post the url here at a later date, should there be enough interest. In the meantime, for anyone interested, there's The Lurker in the Lobby, which is a rather good guide to such, and there's also A Complete Guide to Lovecraftian films out there as well (with considerable overlap, but some differences), and as we go along I'll be introducing discussions on some of the titles they have in these books as well.

    So, for anyone who'd like: put on your thinking caps, jump in with anything you think may fit, and I hope we may be able to have a fun and entertaining, and maybe a bit controversial (now and again) discussion on the topic.

    "Roll 'em..."
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    Stuart Jaffe

    Stuart Jaffe New Member

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    Well, how can we not mention Re-Animator. For all its flaws (which are numerous), it is still one of the most entertaining, gross-outs I've ever seen. In some ways, of course, it borders on mocking Lovecraft, but I think the makers of the film had a deep bond for the source material and just added in their own twisted viewpoint.
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    Foxbat

    Foxbat I am a number

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    Well, to be honest, until the recent mentioning of Call Of The Cthulhu in the silent films thread, I wasn't aware of many Lovecraftian movies. The ones I can think of off-hand are The Beyond, The Crawling Eye (these two, I believe, are based on Lovecraft rather than literal tranlations). The Dunwich Horror is another that springs to mind.

    What about The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale (he of Quatermass fame)? Although it's an original tale of his own, I think that the ancient and malevolent evil in this story was definitely inspired by Lovecraft's work.

    That's all I can think of for now.

    (PS. I stuck this thread as promised):)
  4.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks, Foxbat. As for The Stone Tape ... while I know of Nigel Kneale of course (speaking of which, does anyone know where I can get a good VHS or DVD copy of the original Quatermass and the Pit television broadcast? Much as I like the Hammer remake, the original had so much lovely atmosphere!), I know nothing about this one. It may well be; certainly Pit had some Lovecraftian elements to it. What can you tell me about it?

    In the AIP set there's also The Haunted Palace, based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and Die, Monster Die (UK titles The House at the End of the World/Monster of Terror), based on "The Colour Out of Space" (as was that dreadful film, The Curse).
  5.  
    Foxbat

    Foxbat I am a number

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  6.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Foxbat: Thanks for the review. Does definitely sound like my cup of tea. Also, I was afraid you'd say that about the original TV version of "Pit" -- that's what I'd been able to find out on Amazon and other sources -- I hope someone picks it up for region one or 0, as it's been a long time since I saw it, but I was quite impressed; especially with the episode titled (if I remember correctly) "Ghosts", which bears an interesting resemblance in theme to The Stone Tape.
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    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    My review of a film which I now think has SOME Lovecraftian tones.

    X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes - Roger Corman (1963)

    To be sincere I didn't so much expect it to be but this was one
    AWESOME movie.

    Written by Ray Russell, the story centers upon the brilliant if
    obsessive scientist James Xavier (Ray Milland)who is intent on
    expanding the range of human vision with his wonder drug 'X'. The
    extent of James' obsession is revealed in a conversation with his
    friend Sam.

    Sam: "Only the gods see everything"
    James: "My friend, I'm closing in on the gods"

    James' formula works, giving him the ability to see through people's
    clothing, their skin and even beyond. But disaster erupts when a
    cynical committee withdraws his funding and he is returned to routine
    clinical practice. A heated argument with a colleague over the
    operating table gives way to a freak mishap in which he causes the
    death of his friend and our brilliant researcher becomes a man on the
    run. He spends his time in hiding as a cheap carnival act, only
    unlike the others, his talent is no sleight of hand, no trick. Found
    out by his agent Crane (a brilliant, palpably sleazy turn by Don
    Rickles), he is arm-twisted into becoming a 'healer' for money.

    All this while, his eyesight grows painfully more intense, perceiving
    radiations beyond the pale of the visible spectrum. In place of
    unaffordable fancy effects (and perhaps all for the better, although
    it is interesting to fantasize about a more technically accomplished
    version that would retain the soul of the original movie) the story
    uses gripping and evocative dialog to convey the frightening
    distortion of Xavier's vision. It's somewhat like Bradbury, but in a
    more economical vein.

    Throughout the narrative there is an air of tragedy and horror. The
    lead character, thanks to Russell's writing and Milland's
    performance, has been etched out so well, you empathize at each
    moment with what he's going through.

    The climax is a shocking literal interpretation of the biblical
    command "If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out"
  8.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    I've got to admit, I never looked at this one through Lovecraftian perspective before -- but then I haven't seen it in quite a long time. Do remember seeing it as a kid, though, and even then I was impressed with Milland's and Rickles' performances. I may have to give this one another go, with this in mind. The old gent crops up in the strangest places....
  9.  
    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    Not exactly cinema focussed but I was re-reading a few Lovecraft stories today and after reading Shadow over Innsmouth I was just thinking about the movie Dagon and how nicely they absorbed all of the ideas in the story, especially that of the protagonist's...heritage, which in the original story is a sort of detachable epilogue but more tightly integrated in the film.
  10.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    It's interesting you should say that. I think that's something about the film that a lot of people (including myself) miss a bit of the first time around -- especially the fact that Ezra Godden took it upon himself to add things like the blinking eyes which, by the end of the "skinning scene", completely stops -- he doesn't blink a single time throughout the rest of the film, and this was entirely Godden's idea, apparently, to hint at the change taking place in Paul.

    As for the protagonist's heritage in the story -- it's actually there, but done very, very subtly; perhaps too much so, as it took several readings for me to pick up on it. Even CAS had his doubts about whether the readers would pick up on it, and urged HPL to add a few hints, but Lovecraft stuck to his guns on this (he apparently did make some changes in "The Whisperer in Darkness" due to input from others, for instance), and I must say that I think this was a wise choice, as each time I visit the story I find new layers of subtlety to the tale -- a story which, like the movie, I didn't actually think that highly of when I first read it (of course, I was 14 at the time, and not particularly given to noticing subtleties....).

    But, yes, this film has a lot of layers to it that only come out upon repeated viewings; like the story itself, there were all sorts of subtle touches that are easy to miss on the first, second, or even third run, then you begin to see things just around the corner... and realize just what a well-crafted film this thing really is. It's slowly grown in my estimation, but I now hold it in quite high esteem, and my opinion of Stuart Gordon's actual commitment to doing a good -- though not slavishly literal -- job of bringing Lovecraft to the screen has grown commensurately.
  11.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Okay. I originally promised to add some places to look for more information on Lovecraftian cinema. Sort of got sidetracked the last few days, but here are some sites worth looking into:

    http://www.lurkerfilms.com

    http://www.unfilmable.com (check out especially their reviews and forthcoming terrors for an idea of the sheer volume of Lovecraft in cinema

    http://www.thelurker.com which has reviews from The Lurker in the Lobby, which is a very enjoyable guide to such films, tv shows, and other sorts of HPL-related lunacy. (I still would love to see someone actually stage A Shoggoth on the Roof someday; it would either be horrible or hilariously funny, but I'd pay money just to see what sort of insanity this thing holds. I love the story about the dad driving around town with his 5-year-old daughter on the seat beside him, window rolled down, singing "If I Were a Deep One".... That's worth the price of admission by itself....

    Enjoy, and come back with any thoughts....
  12.  
    Foxbat

    Foxbat I am a number

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    Watched Cool Air last night and have to say that I enjoyed it. Good performances in a story that I felt the end was just a wee bit predictable (I've never read the short story on which this was based so I feel justification in stating that point).

    In fact, I have to admit to not knowing very much about Lovecraft at all. I kind of have the stereotypical view of HP's writings with lumbering ancient malevolences slthering about the place, so this story was a nice surprise in the sense that it was not quite what I expected.

    The question is: does what I've seen so far encourage me to part with more cash for the other volumes? Indubitably:)
  13.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Excellent. If you liked Cool Air which, though I think is a wonderful film in many ways (especally the chemistry between the two principals, and Jack Donner's sterling performance) I also think is the weakest of the three (by a hair), then you should definitely enjoy the others. There is a "lumbering ancient malevolence" in Rough Magik, but it's kept very much in the background, and used for its evocative felt but barely seen menace; the story itself revolves around its effects on various people and is very, very nice indeed. As said before, Out of Mind is, despite a low budget for special effects, an absolute gem. Enjoy!

    And I'm glad this worthwhile endeavor will be receiving even more attention.
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    Foxbat

    Foxbat I am a number

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    I think a sense of menace is often much more effective than an on-screen monster. It's better to let your own imagination run riot and scare the beejeezus out of yourself than rely on somebody else's to frighten you. I look forward to seeing this one:)
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    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    Not exactly Lovecraftian cinema but...

    Lovecraft - The Forgotten Diary

    A short (about half hour) film about the alleged finding of a diary of HP Lovecraft giving detailed notes of a trip that he took to Italy. Talking with Italian Lovecraft experst and juxtaposing extracts from the book with footage from the actual region (a rural place called Polesine), the film discusses the likely authenticity of the diary and tries to reconstruct Lovecraft's travels. What is really interesting is how closely the notes in this alleged diary could have served ready material for some of his works like Shadow over Innsmouth. Definitely something to see for the Lovecraft fan.
  16.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Any information on how to get hold of this?
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    Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

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    Have never heard of this one Ravenus and it sounds very intriguing indeed. Where and how could we find it :confused:
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    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    Well, being in India where access to most stuff that's not absolute mainstream is extremely difficult and frustrating, I oftentimes have to depend on the internet *cough* emule *cough* to check out stuff and then make efforts to buy the ones that sufficiently interest me. Most of my DVD collection consists of stuff that I first checked out through such means :eek:

    I suspect the above referred film was commissioned for some TV channel, have no idea if it's available as a video purchase. I have heard that the makers of this have also assembled a more full-length effort called H.P. Lovecraft - The Terror Within which returns to and expands on the ground covered in this film.

    About Terror Within:
    Link 1
    Link 2
    Official Site
    IMDB link
    Film review link
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2006
  19.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Ah, well, I'll keep an eye out for mention of it... Thanks for the heads-up, anyway.
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    Tau Zero

    Tau Zero I'm on Earth? Not again!

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    How this movie brings back memories! I saw this when it came out. It was a double feature (as all movies were in those days) with Dementia 13, a horror movie by Francis Coppola. I was 8 years and saw it with my friend who was 10. I came out of those films ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED. He dropped me off at home so he could go home, but i was so scared i made him stay until my parents came home. I fond memory now, but man, was i scared!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2006

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