The Dunwich Horror (1970 film)

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Promotional poster for The Dunwich Horror (1970)...

Summary

Wilbur Whateley pops over to the Arkham Miskatonic University to borrow the legendary Necronomicon - and the lovely Sandra Dee. But little does anyone know, Whateley isn't quite human...

Details

  • Release Date: 1970
  • Country/Language: USA, English
  • Genres/Technical: Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • Runtime: 1 hr 30 min
  • Starring: Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley
  • Director: Daniel Haller
  • Writer: H.P. Lovecraft (original story)
  • Producer/Production Co: Roger Corman, Samuel Z. Arkoff, American International Pictures (AIP)
  • View Trailer: (link)
  • IMDB: (link)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: R (Nudity, Adult Content, mild Violence)

Aside from some goofy, hazy, psychedelic nude-hippie-cultist-orgy dream sequences appearing in a couple places and some uncomfortable scenes of Wilbur Whateley dosing college students with date-rape drugs and hypnotically seducing them, the film could probably be watched by older kids with minimal adult supervision.


Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • SSSs_ (Three and a Half Tentacles: Lovecraftian; a fairly faithful adaptation)

Three and a Half Tentacles for a slightly watered-down version of Lovecraft's original story, with the usual suspects added in to pad the story and add drama and sleaze (update to the 1960s/70s, nudity, a romantic subplot, a house burning down at the end, etc.)

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • BadMovieMarathon "Summer of Lovecraft", (link) - "...Mostly boring and derivative. Characters are plot-conveniently stupid. [The Director] wisely keeps the monster off stage until the very last minute, relying on psychedelic colours and camerawork and POV shots. The final confrontation is nicely atmospheric, but seems very rushed, involving paying off [for] something that is basically not set up at all."
  • Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (link) (2/5 Stars). "...the minute the live-action opens with the deadening line: “Why don’t you take this copy of The Necronomicon and return it to the library?” One can clearly sense that dear old H.P. Lovecraft is in for a rough time. Not too surprisingly, one is proved right. Certainly, the climax conjures something of Lovecraft’s sense of sense of occultic rituals to call up Elder Gods and at least comes closer in style to Lovecraft than any of the post-Re-Animator ilk. However, Daniel Haller’s directorial style is flat and lacking in any depth of character of subtlety. Everything takes place at a slow, plodding, nondescript pace."
  • Giovanni Susina at The Mansions of Madness (link) - "It’s still really cool stuff in my opinion, a nice ‘70s filmic materialization of Lovecraft. You can tell the scriptwriters researched the book thoroughly. It’s by no means a direct retelling, but it ends up being an interesting take on the novella. Despite its current 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I still feel it’s a classic in its own right and a graceful early attempt at adapting The Dunwich Horror to film."

Synopsis

This is a fairly faithful adaptation of the original Lovecraft story, updated to the 1970s, with some psychedelic/pseudo-satanic/witch-orgy exploitation material and a romantic subplot added by the infamous Roger Corman and company. Wilbur Whateley attempts to obtain a copy of the infamous Necronomicon for his wizard father to help summon the Old Gods, while Wilbur's unearthly mutant twin brother lurks in a room in the creepy Whateley farmhouse in Dunwich. It's up to the Miskatonic University staff to save the world and keep Wilbur from hypnotizing and seducing beautiful university students.


Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • Samples from this film appear in the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets song, "Cthulhu Dreams".
  • The odd symbol that appears again and again - on Wilbur's ring, on his grandfather's staff, in the design on the main floor, etc. - is actually an ancient Native American symbol commonly termed "Thunderbird in sun".
  • Dean Stockwell plays Dr. Armitage in The Dunwich Horror (2009 film)


Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes