Friday, October 06, 2006

31 Days of Halloween - Day 6 Movie

If you were going to watch one movie based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, I recommend last year's excellent "The Call of Cthulhu."
While not as bad as Stuart Gordon's "Dagon", "The Dunwich Horror" (1970) is pretty bad. It has slightly more to do with Lovecraft than the earlier AIP movies had to do with Poe, but like the Poe movies has a burning gloomy mansion at its climax, and unlike the Poe movies, this one is pretty dull. Part of that is that stars Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee are so sedate in their performances, they'd might as well be in a trance. Dee, at least has the excuse that her character is constantly being drugged by Stockwell, so that he can use her in a sacrificial role in order to open a gateway to another dimension, allowing the Old Ones to pass through. The same ritual was botched by his grandfather 25 years earlier, leading to Stockwell's mother's insanity, his birth, and the birth of his twin brother, a tentacled monstrosity, that we don't really get to see (a wise choice).

The movie is not helped by an incompatible score by Les Baxter. The special effects consist mostly of solarization, polarization, gauze over the lens, vaseline on the lens, and a bunch of free-love hippies in body paint and carnival costumes writhing in extreme close-up. There are some effective moments using natural phenomena to suggest the passing of the monster, such as dust swirls moving along a path, and a dry river suddenly flooding with water. The sounds used for the monster were effective as well, somewhat reminiscent of the sound effects for the creatures in "Fiend Without a Face."

The movie also stars Ed Begley, Lloyd Bochner, Sam Jaffe and Talia Shire (billed as Talia Coppola), and a brief role by AIP/Corman regular Barboura Morris. . The movie was directed by Daniel Haller, and the screenplay was written by Curtis Hanson who would later go on to impress with "L.A. Confidential," "Wonder Boys," and "8 Mile."

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