Saturday, February 15, 2014

An Overview of Some of the Early H.P Lovecraft Adaptations



       Anyone who knows me will know that I have a deep love and regard to the works of none other than H.P Lovecraft. I have been a big fan of his writing since around my fresh man year of high school and to this day read and reread his stories periodically. He is without a doubt one of Americas greatest figures in literature and to this day inspires so many other writers.

       Anyways recently I got to thinking how has Lovecraft`s fared in regards film adaptations of his stories? I know there really haven't been that many, which is so strange to me. But you have other fellow "horror" writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King  who have had numerous adaptions of there stories and many have been fantastic. Yet Lovecraft seems to be ignored and when his stuff does actually get adapted to film they either drift ridiculously far from the story to the point it can hardly be identified with the original story or they are just plain awful. Yet there have been a few exceptions. Anyhow to get the full perspective of Lovecraft film adaptions lets start from the beginning with Roger Corman`s "The Haunted Palace".

    The Haunted Palace (1963) was directed by the great Roger Corman and written by Charles Beaumont ("The Seven Faces of Dr.Lao", "Burn, Witch, Burn!"), apparently Francs Ford Coppola did some additional writing on the movie as well. The Film was based on H.P Lovecraft`s novella "The Case of Charles Dextar Ward". Interesting fact when this released Lovecraft was still not really well known so they made Corman name it after the Edgar Allan Poe Poem "The Haunted Palace" and act as if its just another one of Corman`s Poe films.
     The film is a fair adaption of the short Lovecraft novel and a superb film. I know some people might find the pacel "slow-burn" but I think its paced perfectly. Vincent Price stars in the film as Charles Dexter Ward/Joseph Curwen. Another Horror Icon Lon Chaney Jr co stars as one of Prices followers, (this was the only movie Chaney ever did with Corman). Elisha Cook Jr and Debra Pagent also have roles in the film. Overall its a good Lovecraft adaptation in fact id definitely say its  one of the best and just a really good Gothic style horror film, I highly recommend it.

     The next film adaption i`d like to mention is "Die Monster Die!" (1965). This film is a adaption of Lovecraft`s story "The Color out of Space". "Die, Monster, Die!" was directed by Daniel Haller and written by Jerry Sohl. It stars Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, and Freda Jackson.
      I`ve come to realize though that  people generally don`t really like this movie, now I can see why but personally i`m fan of this film. I think Boris Karloff is great in the role of Nahum Witley and the sets/art direction just looks really good. Unfortunately I admit it does end up being a bit of a lose adaptation and the special effects are something Mystery Science Fiction Theater would have so many jokes about.  Though overall I think its a fine film on its but I admit its definitely not the most loyal of adaptations. I`d say "The Haunted Palace" was a more loyal adaptation then "Die Monster Die!" by far.


 The next "adaptation" is so lose its debatable that even counts as an adaptation at all and and that is of 1968`s "Curse of the Crimson Alter" (aka The Crimson Cult). This film is supposed to be based on Lovecraft`s story "The Dreams in the Witch House" but it really just does its own thing. There`s some themes from the story in the movie like how the main character is haunted by disturbing dreams, but truthfully if you expect a movie based on the story your going to be disappointed. There no big rat eating through anyone's chest, appearances of Elder Things, or anything like that from the story.
      Its to bad to because it has the makings for a really good film, i`m not saying its a bad movie i`m just saying it could have been much better. Its directed by Vernon Sewell and stares a bunch of really great horror actors like Boris Karloff (this is one of his last films), Christopher Lee, Michael Gough and Barbara Steele. Yet with all this talent the movie isn't really much more than just OK and is so loosely based on the story "The Dreams in the Witch House" its debatable that its even based on the story at all.

     Next up is "The Dunwich Horror" from 1970. This film tends to get a mixed reception from people. Personally I just think its ok, its a very psychedelic and kind of weird horror film. Its directed by Daniel Haller (same person who directed "Die, Monster, Die!"), produced by Roger Corman and stars Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee, and Ed Begley. It was supposed to have Boris Karloff in the Ed Begley role of Dr.Henry Armitage which would have been perfect but Karloff died before production started. Then Peter Fonda was originally in the Dean Stockwell role of Wilbur Whateley.
      "The Dunwich Horror" has some really good moments in it. For example the scenes that involve the occult are really well executed, they genuinely chilling and creepy. Not at all cheesy or campy like so many films that attempt doing scenes involving the occult and occult rituals. Then there scenes that are set up to like look like bad acid trips which was unique and definitely a testament to the time it was made. Ed Begly was a good choice for Dr.Armitage and worthy successor to late Boris Karloff for the part.
     Now the not so great is that to me it didn't include enough of the story in movie. It adds some weird and unnecessary aspects, but by no means ruins the original story. Then of course we have to address the monster that we finally see at the end. Some people have gone so far as to say it ruins the movie, I wouldn't go that far but I do admit it looks kinda hooky. I don't even describe the thing you have to see it for your self.
     Overall despite its flaws "The Dunwich Horror" is not to bad. It could have been a bit better, but is fairly loyal to the original story, has a very good cast of actors, and very cool poster. So would I recommend it? If your interested or have read the original story by Lovecraft then yes, otherwise there's no real big reason to go out of your way to see it.