Pickman's Model, a movie based on a Lovecraft story

Discussion in 'H P Lovecraft' started by AE35Unit, Feb 27, 2010.

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    AE35Unit

    AE35Unit ]==[]===O °

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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    I know nothing about this one, but looking up the reviews at Amazon, it got some interesting(?) comments:

    Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: H.P. Lovecraft's Pickman's Model

    If they have anything on it (and I would imagine they do, buried somewhere in the archives), Unfilmable.com is a good place to go for information on Lovecraft-related films.

    In the meantime... if anyone does know anything about this, I'd be interested in hearing about it myself.

    Also, as far as this particular tale is concerned, Lurker Films' Lovecraft Collection, vol. 4, has not one, but three versions of the tale (each with its points of interest), plus extras....

    H.P. Lovecraft Collection Vol 4: Pickman's Model (DVD) [HPLC04] : Arkham Bazaar, The Bazaar of the Bizarre ... Lovecraft, Cthulhu, Poe, Movies, DVDs, Gifts
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    The trailer makes it look incredibly boring and amateurish.
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    Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    I have not been overwhelmed by any movie in the last several years. They should put them all on iTunes and I would rent them along with the recent Lovecraft documentary.

    Sometimes the actors/actresses in the lower budget movies are good, but why aren't there any big budget attempts at Lovecraft such as "The Dunwich Horror". I saw the old movie based on that story and it was okay, but with the modern computer stuff you would think that it should be a given.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    There has been a recent version of "The Dunwich Horror" -- 2009, in fact. It even featured Dean Stockwell playing Wilbur's main antagonist (Henry Armitage) this time around, as well as Jeffrey Combs playing Wilbur. And it was gawdawful. Had some interesting ideas, mind you, but... yeesh!

    The problem is that Hollywood doesn't often understand "atmosphere" these days... it's all flash and bang when it comes to fantasy/horror/sf, and as close to zero intellectual content as can possibly be managed... which is quite close indeed most of the time. The majority of films which are at all faithful to Lovecraft in any way (they don't even have to be all that faithful to the text, but just to the spirit) are done by amateurs (as is the case here -- though I won't speak for how good or bad this one is, though I, too, was less than impressed by the trailer). Which, given Lovecraft's views on amateurs in general, is rather fitting. (Of course, in his day, "amateur" didn't carry nearly the pejorative connotations it does now, as it was quite often much closer to the meaning of the term: one who does something for the love of it.)

    The closest I've seen in "big" (i.e., professional) films are those of Stuart Gordon and Guillermo del Toro (who, in fact, is still trying to get At the Mountains of Madness off the ground). Though these, even when (as in Gordon's case) directly adapted from Lovecraft's work, stray extremely far from the text in many ways, nonetheless they do remain faithful to the spirit, and they show a very intelligent reading of Lovecraft and a respect for the man and his work while also exhibiting a very modern sensibility. They also show extreme care with detail... of the painstaking sort that Lovecraft himself tended to indulge in with his writing. I don't know if it is possible to actually do a literal adaptation of Lovecraft for the screen, but a faithful adaptation is another matter, and has been done; Dagon is a good example -- it is very much Gordon and Paoli's film, but it is permeated with Lovecraft and his vision and sensibilities as well. And, of course, there were the productions Out of Mind (done for Canadian television) and Rough Magik (originally planned as a pilot for a series for British television), both of which were professionally done, and are (despite some flaws) very, very good at capturing the essence of Lovecraft... yet neither was a direct adaptation of a Lovecraft piece....

    At any rate, I won't write off the film until I've seen it, as it wouldn't be the first time I've seen amateurish efforts which were nonetheless, when seen as a whole, quite good... but I remain skeptical, nonetheless.....
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    Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    If you listened to the recording on iTunes of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", not the free podcast but the $5 copy, you would get something that has a lot of the power of the short story, but it is only an audio recording. It certainly tells the story very powerfully.

    Sure I know what you mean about film not being able take on the story but the Hollywood version of Bram Stokers Dracula did well in establishing a gothic Victorian setting, so it is possible to create a high quality background. Dracula's speech in that movie was memorable.

    What I would reinforce is that I would basically put high emphasis on audio as the best form to turn to outside of the story. I am referring to dramatic recordings, not narrations, but excerpts along with sound effects and a cast of actors/actresses. There isn't enough of those out there now. The one on "The Dunwich Horror" is good too.

    Yes, I would be wary of even Hollywood's attempt unless someone like George Lucas tried it.
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    Wasn't there a TV episode of Pickman's model, made in the 70's? I think Rod Serling was involved, but it wasn't a Twilight Zone episode.
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Did you look at the trailer, JD? Because it seems to me that if they had anything that might conceivably spark the tiniest bit of interest it would somehow have found its way into the trailer.
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    brsrkrkomdy

    brsrkrkomdy New Member

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    J-WO, it was an episode on Night Gallery. It was an interesting set up but I laughed when the monster finally showed up. Even the pictures that are drawn, they're not well drawn. They're not even up to standards of R. Upton Pickman himself.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Given Lucas' more recent efforts, I would be especially chary were he in the directorial chair....


    I know what you mean... but I've seen much worse trailers for some very good films. Sometimes it almost seems as if the people who put the trailer together deliberately went out of their way to damage the film as much as possible. I doubt that is the case here -- I'm inclined to agree with you that the film is likely not all that good, perhaps outright bad... but, having been married to a film major, I've seen a lot of bad films and even worse trailers; so I leave the door open to be pleasantly surprised. (Though, again, I think in this case it would be a distinct surprise!)
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    Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Do you remember the part in Episode I where Qui-Gon was fighting Darth Maul and they had to stop when the force field came up between them, than Qui-Gon recapitulated his light saber and began to pray. What I think would have been better is that as soon as he finished praying he should have rushed forward in an all or nothing attack to the death. I've seen that type of move in real Kendo but not to the death obviously. Anyway, this is off topic, but it needed sayings er is all.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, the artwork there (to me) was the real let-down. The creature might well have worked, if shot well -- brief glimpses of a claw, a shadow, a quick movement, etc. But shooting a man in a rubber suit full-on, with bright lighting... never a good idea, especially if you're going for atmosphere.....
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    Oddly enough, I think the same can be said for modern day CGI; it always seems the programmers want to show of their handiwork. The mid-nineties excelled in this-- Hollywood horror films that may as well have shown you a diagram of the monster.

    'Less is more' is a cliche for good reason!
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    Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    A short 9 minute long animated movie of "Dagon" YouTube - Dagon - HP Lovecraft (Digital Novel)

    There is hope for recreating the short story in film. I never thought of animated movies. This one is not incredibly deep, but the drawing is alright. I didn't feel absorbed in the movie, and the monster was way, way, smaller in this representation, than the image I had in my mind of the creature. I saw the creature as being large like a dinosaur, and very quick like a fish. Still I think that this is the way to go in order to depict the stories, and it is much cheaper to draw than it is to manage a real set, although the blue screen way is something of a different sort again. I don't know about anything beyond digital animation say for example using 3d animation software. This is not a bad way to go at any rate, but it just didn't contain the proper emotion, and the reading felt like a reading rather than a play. Some nice images and alright background sounds.
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    w h pugmire esq

    w h pugmire esq Member

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    The entire film may be viewed in two segments on YouTube. The acting is awful. Conor Timmis, as the artist, tries to be sinister, and he certainly has an interesting face -- but his evilness comes off as fake, as acting. The first portion of the film is very boring, just talk. The second half has a few moments of mood, a nice old lantern, and the paintings (seen obscurely) are interesting, but certainly not the work of macabre genius as the paintings of Pickman must be. The second half stays close to the original story, but is handled so unimaginatively that it cannot be called, in any way, a success. Filmed, the tale needs gobs of atmosphere as expressed in settings, artwork, camera work, and subtle acting.
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    I'd hazard Pickman's Model will never truly work on the screen- getting those portraits looking as Lovecraft insinuates is always going to be a hurdle too high (Unless one can revive Goya or someone).

    As a radio piece, however, I think it would be fantastic. In fact it would be one of the most suited of HPL's works.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, despite some liberties, Chilean Gothic, which is an adaptation of "Pickman's Model", works rather well, and manages to be a very disturbing, haunting piece. Even the amateur film -- a thesis film done by Cathy Welch here at UT -- does a rather good job, despite limited resources and amateur talent. As you say, though, the paintings are the main drawback with any adaptation. Giger certainly has the talent, but is anything but a realist. Most of those, I think, who have the ability to capture the other essential elements of Pickman's work are either straightforward horror artists or surrealists, whereas Lovecraft takes great pains to make it plain Pickman was a realist. This, of course, is very important to Lovecraft's thesis in the tale, as well as the final effect of the revelation and the power of Pickman's art on the imagination... something Robert Bloch picked up on with the first portion of his Lovecraftian tribute novel, Strange Eons....

    The other element which would be difficult (but by no means impossible) to catch is a very subtle hint of the unhuman in Pickman himself. It should not be anything blatant, or even so notable that one can put their finger on it, but rather some subtle, very understated aura about his appearance and/or performance which makes the audience uncomfortably aware that he is a being apart, without turning him into an object of outright horror until the very end....
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    w h pugmire esq

    w h pugmire esq Member

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    This is part of Lovecraft's genius -- the hints regarding characters, their history, their secrets, their background and fate -- there's so much that is hinted at that excites my imagination. Just from the hints that Lovecraft has given us, one could write an entire novel on Richard Upton Pickman, and gawd would I love to try! I finally used Pickman as a character in a Sesqua tale, but my presentation, I now realise, is too mild and unimaginative. Damn it, I'm gonna do it. I'm going to write a Pickman novel.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, that was a stroke of genius on Godden's part (and I understand it was his idea). The sort of thing which is so very easy to miss but, like the subtle hints Lovecraft has throughout that story from the very beginning, it clues you in on the change he is going through.

    But with Pickman... I think it also would need some very subtle makeup touches. As I said, nothing overt, nothing one even catches on a conscious level (at least the first time around), but something which "feels" wrong about his appearance. It can be done, certainly; the problem is convincing Hollywood-types (in most cases) that such is either necessary or desirable.

    Wilum... a novel about Pickman could be a very interesting undertaking. I am wondering, though, given your tendency toward a sort of dream-like atmosphere in your tales, if you might be the one to handle the transition of Pickman from the almost straight horror of "Pickman's Model" to the figure we see in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. You may be one of the very few who could capture the dream-elements in the original story and gradually increase them as Pickman undergoes that change and becomes a part of that strange Dreamland. I don't think that it would be necessary to do such using a Dunsanian sort of style, even in the latter portions, but I do think that the eerie blurring of dream and reality which you do so well could be put to very good use with such a tale.

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