3/5 Rating - The Dunwich Horror - Pretty creepy main character and what will unfold. The horror was strong but weakened about an hour in. A must for old school horror fans though!
Defending a true masterpiece of Gothic Horror!
chad edwards | cincinnati, ohio USA | 09/24/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has received more bad reviews than any other horror movie I have ever read about, and after seeing it I can't even begin to understand why! Based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same title, THE DUNWICH HORROR follows warlock Wilbur Whatley's desperate quest to restore his fiendish family to their rightful position as rulers of the universe. However, there are two crucial factors needed in carrying out this mad plan. Firstly and foremost, Whatley must locate a copy of the Necronomicon, an ancient book of evil spells, and the sacrifice of a pure, but still sexually attractive female(that's where beautiful college co-ed Sandra Dee figures into the story). As the wild-eyed Whatley, Dean Stockwell is clearly having a ball, and was obviously warming up for his hammy role in David Lynch's sci-fi opus DUNE. Ed Begley, in his final film role, also seems to be enjoying himself as Stockwell's chief Nemesis, Dr. Armitadge. However, the best and most convincing performance by far is given by lovely young Sandra Dee(of GIDGET fame) who makes an effective SCREAM QUEEN debut. This film has received many negative notices, but it's not bad at all, even by today's standards. The film was made on a noticeably low-budget, but manages to produce some genuine scares and has a menacing air of creepy, Gothic atmosphere throughout. Furthermore, this movie is one of the better attempts to capture literary mastermind H.P. Lovecraft on celluloid. If the film seems rather long(it's 90 minutes), remember that Lovecraft's original story was only about 35-40 pages long. For the most part, the screenwriters have added some genuinely effective touches to flesh out the story. In my opinion, the film is fairly successful at sustaining the viewer's interest for most of its 90 minutes, and most importantly, director Daniel Haller has successfully captured the mood and flavor of Lovecraft's original story. Also, fans of the old DARK SHADOWS/NIGHT GALLERY series will be delighted by this little flick which is similar in tone and style to those early '70's TV horror classics."
"Somthing's bothering Rusty!"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/18/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"American International Pictures (AIP) and Roger Corman found great success translating (often times loosely) the works of Edgar Allen Poe to the silver screen with such popular films like House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). This being the case, why wouldn't the terrifying, mind bending works of H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu mythos * (a shared world in which authors use as a setting for their stories, usually within the realm of horror, science fiction, or fantasy) among other things, fair equally as well? They did try, releasing such films as The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die! (1965), and The Dunwich Horror (1970), but found limited success. The films were entertaining, but if you've ever read any of Lovecraft's stories, what you see on screen is comparatively tame to the visuals created within your mind from the text of the written word. Directed by Daniel Haller (Die, Monster, Die!), who later found work directing television shows like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, and Knight Rider, the film stars former teen idol Sandra `Queen of the Teens' Dee (Gidget, A Summer Place) and Dean Stockwell (The Boy with Green Hair, Blue Velvet, Married to the Mob). Also appearing is Ed Begley (12 Angry Men), Lloyd Bochner (The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear), and Talia Shire (The Godfather, Rocky), who is actually credited in the film as Talia Coppola as she had yet to take the name of Shire from her impending marriage to composer David Shire.
The story begins essentially at a university as a lecture, held by Dr. Henry Armitage (Begley), a doctor of Philosophy, is letting out. One student, Nancy Wagner (Dee), is tasked with returning the Necronomicon (the book of the dead) back to its rightful place within the schools library (how in the world the University ever came to possess this I have no idea). As she's returning it to its secure location, she's approach by an odd looking man we'll later know as Wilbur Whateley (Stockwell), who has a great interest in the ancient tome, and not just for edification purposes. The two become acquaintances, but there's a feeling of Wilbur having ulterior motives with regards to his interest in Nancy, other than gaining unfettered access to the book. We later discover Wilbur, who lives in nearby Dunwich, has a history in the occult, leading all the way back to his great grandfather, who was killed by the peoples of Dunwich for his strange beliefs. Has Wilbur (the townsfolk refer to him as Weird Wilbur) taken up where his forefathers left off? He certainly has, but how do Nancy and the Necronomicon fit into whatever plans he has? And what's that thing locked away in the upper recesses of Wilbur's house? Based on all the strange noises it makes, I bet it's something very nasty (and slimy)...
Honestly, I have yet to see a well-rendered film adaptation of any of Lovecraft's works. Perhaps the closest came in the form of a film not even based off a Lovecraft story, but certainly inspired by his writings, in John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (1995). The problem is in the idea of The Old Ones (these were creatures who came from outer space, inhabited the Earth long before man, and have since been banished to a different dimension), in that they are such hideous, vile, unfathomable creatures that to even catch a glimpse would result in complete madness and permanent insanity. How do you depict that on the screen, especially in and AIP film, not known for their extravagant spending (cheap special effects and psychedelic lighting only go so far)? Stockwell was hardly frightening (especially with his Mike Brady hairdo and mustache) and often looks like he just arrived from the set of a homersexual porn film. I think his character was meant to appear suave and smooth-tongued, but he came across as creepy, oily, and, well, just weird. That guy from the movie Manos, the Hands of Fate was a more menacing warlock. If Wilbur were any more laid back, he would have been tokin' a doobie. I had a really difficult time believing he was capable of doing some of the things he later did...as far as Dee's character, she spent much of the film in a state of enchantment, so not much going on there. There are some cheap thrills, seeing once teen idol Dee virginal character being violated by the forces of darkness (oh no, not Gidget!), but it seemed like that was played upon too much. And for the record, Dee does not get full on nekkid in this film as she's wearing a robe with slitted sides, and the camera spends way to much time ogling her, going up and down her sides as she lay on an altar (I thought I did see a nipple at one point, but it could have been a mole). Incidentally, Dee's real life defrocking came a few years earlier, as her marriage to teen idol Bobby Darin disintegrated and she was unjustly stigmatized with the air of being a divorcée (i.e. damaged goods) rather than a competent actress. The direction of the film is decent, and there are some creepy scenes, highlighted very well by Les Baxter's superior haunting score, but ultimately the film, while entertaining, was a little bit of a letdown for me as it lacked the truly nightmarish qualities one would expect from a Lovecraftian story. And who didn't see that ending coming?
The wide screen picture (1.85:1), enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs, looks very sharp and clean. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono comes through clearly most of the time. The only special feature on this DVD is an original theatrical trailer. By the way, the title for my review is probably the funniest line in the film, as stated by a farmer, about his dog, as the dog reacts to the unseen (but certainly heard) approach of a hideous, slobbering nightmare creature, which, subsequently devours the house (I think Rusty survived, though).
* Lovecraft fans don't care for the term `Cthulhu mythos' as it wasn't coined as such by its creator. "
Yog-Sothoth and a hot chick---yeah, baby, yeah
Holly Apollyon | The Overlook Hotel | 08/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I thought this movie ruled. Okay, maybe it strayed from the story a bit, by taking a nine-foot tall alien freak and turning him into Dean Stockwell, and by adding a very hot Sandra Dee, but they at least tried. This is the only instance of movie exploitation, I think, that wouldn't have cause H.P. Lovecraft to roll over in his grave. And maybe Wilbur's star-spawned twin brother was a little goofy, but I thought it had that kind of rubber-suit-monster Night Stalker charm. Overall, the movie had a kind of narcotic gloss that aided well in the suspension of disbelief. I recommend this movie highly---both to Lovecraft fans and to ordinary horror buffs. It's cool, and even if this movie did damage Sandra Dee's career, she was hot. After all, monsters, even the slimy ones from outer space, need love too. So come on, guys, have a heart."
"When the (4) stars are right . . ."
John Salonia Jr. | New Jersey | 04/04/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As Chad Edwards remarked in his review, this movie has taken a lot of heat over the years, especially from picky Lovecraft freaks. Well, I'm a picky Lovecraft freak myself, and I find this filmed adaptation of one of my favorite HPL tales quite entertaining, if at times a little incomprehensible (why does Old Whately suddenly try to stop Wilbur from opening the gates to Yog-Sothoth when it was his idea in the first place? Sounds like a last-minute script rewrite to me). Sandra Dee has also been abused for her performance in this film, and I have to ask why? Given the parameters of her role, she enacts it well. She seems the perfect victim, and her "good-girl" image made her (body-doubled) semi-nude scenes shocking at the time (think Alyssa Milano's lesbian scenes in the laughably bad EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE). Obviously this aspect is less effective today, but her performance holds up well.The cast is uniformly good, especially the always-reliable Lloyd Bochner and Sam Jaffe. Ed Begley, father of the inventor of the electric car (just kidding!) makes a fine Armitage, although I wish the writers gave him some of that aged intellectual heroism that HPL described so well. His ability to save the day is a little perfunctory, reducing the menace a bit. But the film is Dean Stockwell's from start to finish. His intense, slightly glazed eyes always seem to be seeing another world. He handles the Manson-styled rewrite of the character with sardonic, arrogant aplomb. If this film were made nowadays, a visually-accurate Wilbur could be made with mechanized prosthetics and CGI effects. Wilbur's human form is a bit of a letdown, admittedly, but better that than a really cheesy bogeyman costume (think MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR, made not many years prior to this by Corman). The slightly-distorted views of cultists proceeding in solemn procession against the rocky skyline while Wilbur reads from the Necronomicon are nicely done, although later closeups of the body-painted 60's-style celebrants are sometimes unintentionally wacky. And Lex Baxter's main title is nicely ominous and foreboding, especially coupled with the brilliant animated credits by Sandy Dvorak. The Horror itself --- mostly invisible, as per the text --- is nicely handled, usually seen as a wave of invisible force flattening the grass and rippling the surface of the water. The inserted shots of the visible creature are quick (and I mean QUICK) cutaways to obscure the limited mobility of the model. If this film were remade, this could be better handled, but the shots gain some much-needed credibility from the electronic chirping on the soundtrack (although it does rather remind me of Ghidrah's vocalizations!)All in all, the movie is flawed but fun. Admittedly it would have been stronger if they'd followed HPL's plot more closely, but much, MUCH worse has been done in Lovecraft's name. Try sitting through CTHULHU MANSION, THE UNNAMEABLE or NECRONOMICON: BOOK OF THE DEAD, and you'll gain an instant appreciation of THE DUNWICH HORROR. HPL fanatics should lighten up a little, and enjoy this for what it is."
The Whateleys and Their Friends.
Robert S. Clay Jr. | St. Louis, MO., USA | 12/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The stories of H. P. Lovecraft are difficult to adapt to film. Nevertheless, this Grade B movie is better than one might expect. Inevitably, there are some differences, but the tale of HPL's famous Cthulu Mythos cycle remains surprisingly intact. New characters appear that are not authentic Lovecraft. Sandra Dee's character introduces a sexual element that is anathema to Lovecraft's rather prissy sexual attitude. A side-view of Dee's bare left thigh and buttock is about it for the proclaimed nude scene. Dean Stockwell is not as monstrously horrific (in spite of his goofy hairstyle) as the Wilbur Whateley of HPL's story. Wilbur displays an obsessive interest in the dread book of evil, "Necronomicon," encased in glass at Miskatonic University. He speaks the incantations in a forgotten language that summon Yog Sothoth and the elder race of ancient beings from beyond time and space. Professor Armitage (Ed Begley) speaks the counter spell and tries to keep Wilbur from the book. Bearded Sam Jaffe is effective in a small role as old Wizard Whateley. In a flashback segment, draped in his dark cloak and carrying the rune staff of unholy sympbols, he summons the "Old One" who mates with his feeble-minded daughter, Lavinia, and spawns Wilbur and one other. In an eerie scene, the whippoorwills' wailing cry seek to capture the expiring Whateley's soul as it leaves the body, another authentic Lovecraft element. The dread Devil's Hop Yard atop Sentinel Hill is a grim setting of terror and sacrifice. When Wilbur's otherworldy brother escapes from his lair, initially invisible, he wreaks havoc on the remote farms in fine monster-on-the-loose fashion. The climax of the film, however, amidst the stone figures and high places lacks the powerful punch needed. Regardless, this is a good attempt to translate Lovecraft on film. Weird as it is, enjoy it. ;-)"