Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Considering H.P. Lovecraft, Part 4

Today, we're going to talk about pastiches and homages, in the form of looking at several volumes of Lovecraftian anthologies I've got.  I've read none of them, but dadgummit, I want to!  I thought that they were worth mentioning, though, even if I can't tell you a whole heck of a lot about them.
  
My plan is to merely post images of them, along with lists of the contents.  Then, as I slowly make my way through the books over the course of the next few months (or, more likely, years), I'll update this post with mini-reviews.  So if you want to stay informed of that, subscribe to the comments; I'll leave a comment each time an update is made.
  
I may or may not end the post with a consideration of Lovecraft film adaptations.  I haven't decided yet; I might end up slitting that off into a separate post.  We'll see!
  
First up:
  
  


  
  
We'll proceed in chronological order by release date, beginning with this 1990 collection.
  

I bought this one this year, at the same time I bought The Horror in the Museum and The Watchers Out of Time.  It seemed to be a solid overview.
  
  • The Call of Cthulhu  (by H.P. Lovecraft)
  • The Return of the Sorcerer  (by Clark Ashton Smith)
  • Ubbo-Sathla  (by Clark Ashton Smith)
  • The Black Stone  (by Robert E. Howard)
  • The Hounds of Tindalos  (by Frank Belknap Long)
  • The Space-Eaters  (by Frank Belknap Long)
  • The Dweller in Darkness  (by August Derleth)
  • Beyond the Threshold  (by August Derleth)
  • The Shambler from the Stars  (by Robert Bloch)
  • The Haunter of the Dark (by H.P. Lovecraft)
  • The Shadow from the Steeple  (by Robert Bloch)
  • Notebook Found in a Deserted House  (by Robert Bloch)
  • The Salem Horror  (by Henry Kuttner)
  • The Terror from the Deptths  (by Fritz Leiber)
  • Rising with Surtsey  (by Brian Lumley)
  • Cold Print  (by Ramsey Campbell)
  • The Return of the Lloigor  (by Colin Wilson)
  • My Boat  (by Joanna Russ)
  • Sticks  (by Karl Edward Wagner)
  • The Freshmann (by Philip José  Farmer)
  • Jerusalem's Lot  (by Stephen King)
  • Discovery of the Ghooric Zone  (by Richard A. Lupoff)
  
The inclusion of "Jerusalem's Lot" explicitly makes this series of posts in-bounds for a Stephen King blog, by the way.  Just sayin'.
  
I'm excited to read this collection for several reasons:
  
(1)  I've never read anything by Howard, Smith, Bloch (Psycho excepted), Leiber, Lumley, Campbell, or Farmer.  This will be an excellent opportunity to dip my toes into those waters.
  
(2)  Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars" (which included a Lovecraft-like protagonist) inspired HPL to write "The Haunter of the Dark," which had a Bloch-like protagonist.  Bloch then wrote "The Shadow from the Steeple" as a sequel!  So while I've read "The Haunter of the Dark," I've not read the two stories with which it is the middle section of a trilogy.  Exciting!
  
(3)  Joanna Russ is a woman.  I'm very curious to see what Lovecraftian fiction written by a woman is like, given the near-complete absence of women in Lovecraft's stories.  Ooh...!  Somebody should publish a book of Lovecraftian stories by women!  And another by non-Caucasians!  These things may already have happened, for all I know.  This also assume that one would be able to find enough female and non-Caucasian writers who wouldn't roll their eyes and/or be offended by the very notion of writing in the style of Lovecraft.
  
  
  
  
This is a 2003 reprint of a 1994 collection.  The Starry Wisdom seems mostly to have included brand-new stories, along with four classics (Ballad, Burroughs, Campbell, Lumley).  You'll have noticed the name "Alan Moore" on the cover; his story "The Courtyard," later adapted into graphic form, and given a sequel in the form of Neonomicon, is the reason why I bought this book.
  
But it looks like there are other good reasons to be glad I've got it:
  
  • Recognition  (by Alan Moore)
  • Lovecraft in Heaven  (by Grant Morrison)
  • Extracted from the Mouth of the Consumer, Rotting Pig  (by Michael Gira)
  • Wind Die You Die We Die  (by William S. Burroughs)
  • The Night-Sea-Maid Went Down  (by Brian Lumley)
  • A Thousand Young  (by Robert M. Price)
  • Hypothetical Materfamilias  (by Adèle Olivia Gladwell)  (yay, another girl!)
  • Teenage Timberwolves: Black Dead Bones of Idiot Bill  (by James Havoc & Daniele Serra)
  • Prisoner of the Coral Deep  (by J.G. Ballard)
  • Black Static  (by David Conway)
  • Potential  (by Ramsey Campbell)
  • Walpurgisnachtmusik  (by Simon Whitechapel)
  • This Exquisite Corpse  (by C.G. Brandrick & D.M. Mitchell)
  • The Call of Cthulhu  (by John Coulthart & H.P. Lovecraft)  (huh...?)
  • The Courtyard  (by Alan Moore)
  • From This Swamp  (by Henry Wessells)
  • Red Mass  (by Dan Kellett)
  • Meltdown  (by D.F. Lewis)
  • The Sound of a Door Opening  (by Don Webb)
  • Beyond Reflection  (by John Beal)
  • The Dreamers in Darkness  (by Peter Smith)
  • Sex-Invocation of the Great Old Ones (23 Nails)  (by Stephen Sennitt)
  • Zaman's Hill  (by Alan Moore)
  • Ward 23  (by D.M. Mitchell)
  
  

  
  
Somewhat confusingly, the collection Cthulhu 2000 was published in 1995.  I bought this one at the same time I bought the Del Rey collections Dreams of Terror and Death and The Road to Madness.  Like those, it did not get read.  I'm not sure I knew it was a collection of previously-written stories; I'm pretty sure I remember assuming it was a collection of newly-commissioned stories.  But no, an examination of them moments ago revealed that the stories span 1964-1993 or so.
  
Not that it matters.
  
The contents:
  
  • The Barrens  (by F. Paul Wilson)
  • Pickman's Modem  (by Lawrence Watt-Evans)  (great title!)
  • Shaft Number 247  (by Basil Cooper)
  • His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood  (by Poppy Z. Brite)
  • The Adder  (by Fred Chappell)
  • Fat Face  (by Michael Shea)
  • The Big Fish  (by Kim Newman)
  • "I Had Vacantly Crumpled It Into My Pocket . . . But By God, Eliot, It Was a Photograph from Life!"  (by Joanna Russ)  (another great title; bonus points to you if you know from where it hails)
  • H.P.L.  (by Gahan Wilson)
  • The Unthinkable  (by Bruce Sterling)
  • Black Man with a Black Horn  (by T.E.D. Klein)
  • Love's Eldritch Ichor  (by Esther M. Friesner)
  • The Last Fear of Harlequin  (by Thomas Ligotti)
  • The Shadow on the Doorstep  (by James P. Blaylock)
  • Lord of the Land  (by Gene Wolfe)
  • The Faces at Pine Dunes  (by Ramsey Campbell)
  • On the Slab  (by Harlan Ellison)
  • 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai  (by Roger Zelazny)
  
I'm not familiar, even by name, with many of these authors.  But I'm always down for some Harlan Ellison, and this will be a good excuse for me to read some Wilson (both), Sterling, Wolfe, and Zelazny.
  
  
  
  
This 1998 collection gathers stories from the sixties through the nineties.  I bought it at a con fifteen years or so ago.  Have I read it?  No.  Sorry!  Someday.
  
  • Her Misbegotten Son  (by Alan Rodgers)
  • Daonine Domhain  (by Peter Tremayne)
  • To Mars and Providence  (by Don Webb)
  • Weird Tales  (by Fred Chappell)
  • The Land of the Reflected Ones  (by Nancy A. Collins)
  • The Shadow at the Bottom of the World  (by Thomas Ligotti)
  • Sensible City  (by Harlan Ellison)
  • The Golden Keeper  (by Ian R. McLeod)
  • Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge: A Memoir  (by Ron Goulart)
  • Crouch End  (by Stephen King)  (yay!)
  • The Turrett  (by Richard A. Lupoff)
  • The Giant Rat of Sumatra  (by Paula Volsky)
  • Black As the Pit, From Pole to Pole  (by Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop)
  • The Other Dead Man  (by Gene Wolfe)
  • The Events at Poroth Farm  (by T.E.D. Klein)
  • The Ocean and All Its Devices  (by William Browning Spencer)
  • A Bit of the Dark World  (by Fritz Leiber)
  • The Perseids  (by Robert Charles Wilson)
  
  



This anthology from 2009 includes:

  • The Crevasse (by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud)
  • The Office of Doom  (by Richard Bowes)
  • Sincerely, Petrified  (by Anna Tambour)
  • The Din of Celestial Birds  (by Brian Evenson)
  • The Tenderness of Jackals  (by Amanda Downum)
  • Sight Unseen  (by Joel Lane)
  • Cold Water Survival  (by Holly Phillips)
  • Come Lurk with Me and Be My Love  (by William Browning Spencer)
  • Houses Under the Sea  (by Caitlín R. Kiernan)
  • Machines of Concrete Light and Dark  (by Michael Cisco)
  • Leng  (by Marc Laidlaw)
  • In the Black Mill  (by Michael Chabon)
  • One Day, Soon  (by Lavie Tidhar)
  • Commencement  (by Joyce Carol Oates)
  • Vernon, Driving  (by Simon Kurt Unsworth)
  • The Recruiter  (by Michael Shea)
  • Marya Nox  (by Gemma Files)
  • Mongoose  (by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear)
  • Catch Hell  (by Laird Barron)
  • That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable  (by Nick Mamatas)  (that's a GREAT title)
  
  
  
This 2014 collection gathers:
  
  • Only the End of the World Again  (by Neil Gaiman)
  • Bulldozer  (by Laird Barron)
  • Red Goat Black Goat  (by Nadia Bulkin)
  • The Same Deep Waters as You  (by Brian Hodge)
  • A Quarter to Three  (by Kim Newman)
  • The Dappled Thing  (by William Browning Spencer)
  • Inelastic Collisions  (by Elizabeth Bear)
  • Remnants  (by Fred Chappell)
  • Love Is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl  (by Caitlín R. Kiernan)
  • The Sect of the Idiot  (by Thomas Ligotti)
  • Jar of Salts  (by Gemma Files)
  • Black As the Pit, From Pole to Pole  (by Howard Waldrop & Steven Utley)  (this story also appeared in Eternal Lovecraft, but with the credits reversed!)
  • Waiting at the Crossroads Motel  (by Steve Rasnic Tem)
  • I've Come to Talk with You Again  (by Karl Edward Wagner)
  • The Bleeding Shadow  (by Joe R. Lansdale)
  • That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable  (by Nick Mamatas)  (an odd inclusion given that it was in a previous Datlow collection...)
  • Haruspicy  (by Gemma Files)
  • Children of the Fang  (by John Langan)
  
  
  
  
This 2014 collection includes:
  
  • At the Mountains of Murkiness  (by Arthur C. Clarke)  (how great is that?)
  • The Fillmore Shuggoth  (by Harry Turtledove)
  • Devil's Bathtub  (by Lois H. Gresh)
  • The Witness in Darkness  (by John Shirley)
  • How the Gods Bargain  (by William Browning Spencer)
  • A Mountain Walked  (by Caitlín R. Kiernan)
  • Diana of the Hundred Breasts  (by Robert Silverberg)
  • Under the Shelf  (by Michael Shea)
  • Cantata  (by Melanie Tem)
  • Cthulhu Rising  (by Heather Graham)  (this is presumably not Boogie Nights Heather Graham, but I kind of hope it is)
  • The Warm  (by Darrell Schweitzer)
  • Last Rites  (by K.M. Tonso)
  • Little Lady  (by J.C. Koch)
  • White Fire  (by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.)
  • A Quirk of the Mistral  (by Jonathan Thomas)
  • The Dog Handler's Tale  (by Donald Tyson)
  
  

  
This one, which came out just this year, includes the following:


  • 20,000 Years Under the Sea  (by Kevin J. Anderson)
  • Tsathoggua's Breath  (by Brian Stableford)
  • The Door Beneath  (by Alan Dean Foster)
  • Dead Man Walking  (by William F. Nolan)
  • A Crazy Mistake  (by Nancy Kilpatrick)
  • The Anatomy Lesson  (by Cody Goodfellow)
  • The Hollow Sky  (by Jason C. Eckhardt)
  • The Last Ones  (by Mark Howard Jones)
  • A Footnote in the Black Budget  (by Jonathan Maberry)
  • Deep Fracture  (by Steve Rasnic Tem)
  • The Dream Stones  (by Donald Tyson)
  • The Blood in My Mouth  (by Laird Barron)
  • On the Shores of Destruction  (by Karen Haber)
  • Object 00922UU  (by Erik Bear and Greg Bear)


Man, I've got some reading to do!

*****
  
Now, let's shift gears and go on a runthrough of the movies that have been based on Lovecraft's work.  It may not be comprehensive; I'm sure I'll miss something.  But I'll get as much in as I can!
  
The Haunted Palace
(1963)
  
  
  
  
As the keen-eyes among you may notice, The Haunted Palace derived partially from Edgar Allan Poe's story of the same name.  However, it was also adapted from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, representing a Poe/Lovecraft mashup decades before mashups were a thing.

I haven't read the Poe poem from which the title is derived, but a cursory amount of research leads me to believe that it contributes very little to the film's plot.  Said plot involves the town of Arkham, which is overlooked by the titular manse (which is not, in fact, haunted).  A warlock played by Vincent Price has been hypnotizing young women for nefarious purposes, and the locals rout him out and burn him at the stake.  He lays a curse upon them, and then, over a century later, another Vincent Price -- a descendant of the first one (they are both named Curwen) -- shows up to take possession of the palace, which he has inherited.

If you are thinking this sounds nothing like The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, don't worry; it's not your imagination.

From there, though, the plot does begin to involve Curwen's ancestor taking over his body as a means of rejoining the world.

It's a decent enough little movie; not great, but okay.  Vincent Price is always worth watching, and Debra Paget (playing his wife) is also good.  Lon Chaney Jr. and Elisha Cook, Jr. also make appearances.  The movie has good sets, effective atmosphere, and the world's first (so far as I know) cinematic cameo by the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred.

It's also of mild interest to Stephen King fans if only because it's part of director Roger Corman's series of Poe films.  These movies were hugely influential on King, and undoubtedly shaped his work.
  
  
Die, Monster, Die!
(aka Monster of Terror)
(1965)
  



Samuel Z. Arkoff's American International Pictures was the production company that had brought the Corman/Poe movies (along with all manner of other low-budget fare) to screens, and they hired Daniel Haller to direct their second Lovecraft adaption.  Haller later directed numerous episodes of shows such as Night Gallery, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers In the 25th Century, among other things, including one of the other features on this list.

Die, Monster, Die! was loosely based on "The Colour Out of Space."  I'll now quote Wikipedia's plot summary:

Stephen Reinhart, an American scientist (Nick Adams), pays a visit to the estate of his British fiancée's family. He finds a scorched area of countryside near an enormous crater. Local townspeople are hostile toward him and refuse to either drive him to his destination or talk about the family that lives there. The source of all these problems is later revealed to be a radioactive meteorite kept hidden in the basement by his girlfriend's father, Nahum Witley (Boris Karloff), who has been using the radiation to mutate plant and animal life, with horrific consequences to his subjects and to members of his family.

"Loosely," indeed.

It's not much of a movie.  Karloff is fine, as always, but my takeaways from this movie were the following:


#1 -- That leading man Nick Adams looks a bit like Vladimir Putin.

#2 -- That leading lady Suzan Farmer has a thoroughly admirable bosom,


Beyond that?  I've seen many worse movies, but this one doesn't amount to a whole heck of a lot.  Don't go to it for the Lovecraft, either; you will be sorely disappointed.


Curse of the Crimson Altar
(aka The Crimson Cult)
(1968)
  

I couldn't find a decent poster with the title Curse of the Crimson Altar, so I settled for this, and then immediately began wondering why the variance in title.  I'm not quite invested enough to do the research to find out.  However...

...the America-release title seems to have been The Crimson Cult.


Thus sayeth Wikipedia:

Robert Manning (Mark Eden) goes in search of his brother, who was last known to have visited the remote house of Craxted Lodge at Greymarsh. Arriving at night, he finds a party is in progress, and he is invited to stay by Eve (Virginia Wetherell), the niece of the owner of the house. His sleep is restless and strange dreams of ritual sacrifice disturb him. Enquiring about his brother, he is assured by the house owner Morley (Christopher Lee) that the man is not here. But Manning’s suspicions are aroused further by his nightmarish hallucinations. When occult expert Professor Marshe (Boris Karloff) informs Manning about a witchcraft cult based around the ancestral Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele), the cult is uncovered. Craxted Lodge is burned to the ground, and the head of the cult is consumed in the flames.

Wikipedia also quotes a contemporary reviewer, who mentions the presence of "several sacrificial virgins."  That sounds promising, but having seen the movie, I couldn't tell you who they were.  Maybe it's fault memory on my part, but, like, I just watched it last night.  So I don't think so.

There is a crimson altar, I think, although it plays so inconsequential a part in the proceedings that there may as well not be.  You know what else is missing?  An H.P. Lovecraft credit in the credits.  And that's fine, because as far as I can tell, this movie drew literally nothing from "The Dreams in the Witch House" except the notion of there being a house.  There's no Brown Jenkin, there's no weird geometry, there's no Lovecraft.

I didn't hate the movie, though.  It's got Lee and Karloff in it, so it earns a few interest points based on that alone.  Barbara Steele is okay in a tiny role, and I was given salacious feelings by Virginia Wetherell quite frequently.  Based on that, I conclude that she is a witch and demand that she be burned.  Might be too late for that; this is an old movie.

Lead actor Mark Eden seems to think he's Sean Connery circa Thunderball, as he is prone to activities that border on rape.  He's okay, but you keep waiting for the movie to judge him, and it never really does.

Three films into our Lovecraft-movie exploration, and nobody has gotten him right yet.  Why do I feel this is a trend in the making?
  
  
The Dunwich Horror 
(1970)
  


 
The first thing I'd like to mention: that's a great poster.  There isn't enough implied-cunnilingus imagery in the movie-poster biz, if you ask me.

This was another American International Pictures production, and director Daniel Haller returned for a second round of Yog-Sothothery.  The movie is not well-admired in most critical circles, but I enjoyed it.  Dean Stockwell creepily plays a much more human iteration of Wilbur Whateley than the one in Lovecraft's story, but accurately portraying Wilbur might have been a tall order for a low-budget feature of the early seventies.  It was a good decision to not even try.

The film adds a female lead, who (depending on how you look at it) becomes Stockwell's love interest.  She's played by Sandra Dee, who is perfectly acceptable.  You may feel less charitable toward Stockwell, who has a sort of upscale-Charles-Manson vibe to him that is going to skeeve you out big-time if you don't like him in his more famous roles such as Quantum Leap or Battlestar Galactica (perhaps more if you do).  He worked for me, though.

The rest of the cast is pretty strong, too: Sam Jaffe, Ed Begley, Talia Shire, and Lloyd Bochner.

It's a moody and atmospheric movie, complete with mildly unfortunate forays into psychedelia.  It follows certain aspects of the short story relatively closely, but the way Stockwell pronounces "Yog-Sothoth" (as if it's two words: "Yog...!  Sothoth...!") bums me out.

What makes the movie work for me, though, is the music by Les Baxter.  He was a mainstay of AIP, and scored several of Corman's Poe movies (including The Pit and the Pendulum, which King fans might recall as the movie the aspiring young writer "novelized" and sold to fellow classmates before getting busted by a teacher).

Baxter's main title music for The Dunwich Horror is a thing of beauty (as are the titles themselves):





I dig the hell out of that.  I know there's a soundtrack in release; I need to get a copy.


Night Gallery season 2 episode 8:
"Professor Peabody's Last Lecture"
(1971)





This segment of the eight episode of Night Gallery's second season (the hour-long episode featured four stories) is not, technically speaking, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft.  However, it is a loving and very specific tribute to his work, and based on that, I decided to include it here.

The slender story involves Professor Peabody giving a lecture to a class of students on the subject of the Elder Gods, including Cthulhu and Hastur and Yog-Sothoth, among others.  Played wonderfully by Carl Reiner, the Professor is mockingly skeptical of the entire religion, and delivers what amounts to a stand-up routine on the subject.  His students include Mr. Bloch, Miss Heald, Mr. Derleth, and (of course) Mr. Lovecraft, and they try to warn him that there are consequences to invoking these names.

How's it end?  In incredibly cheesy fashion that is also rather satisfying.

Good stuff.


Night Gallery season 2 episode 11: 
"Pickman's Model"
 (1971)
  



A few weeks later, "Pickman's Model" formed the basis of the first part of episode 11.  It isn't a particularly faithful adaptation.  In the short story, a man tells an acquaintance the story of his visit to the studio of Richard Upton Pickman, who painted exquisitely horrifying depictions of ghouls feasting and other enjoying their depredations.  The strength of the tale lies in Lovecraft's ability to make one's mind strain to imagine how a painting -- even of the sort he describes -- could be so well-achieved in its horrors that a man would begin screaming at the mere sight of it.

A film cannot convey this.  It simply can't, because a painting of that sort cannot be painted.  But one's mind's-eye depiction of such a thing can be effective, and that's how Lovecraft succeeded with the story.

Pity the poor screenwriter charged with adapting that for a half-hour of television.  Alvin Sapinsley did what most of us would probably do: he simply changed the story to fit the medium.  So here, we have a Pickman who teaches young ladies to paint, and we have a young lady who falls in love with him and pursues him until she discovers his secret: that he is painting his ghouls from real-life studies.  She's played by Louise Sorel, who will to me forever be Rayna from the Star Trek episode "Requiem for Methuselah."

As for "Pickman's Model," it's a decent episode that is nearly destroyed by what might charitably be called an unconvincing rubber-suit monster.




Night Gallery season 2 episode 12:
"Cool Air"
(1971)




The third and (I assume) final Lovecraft-centric story of Night Gallery's second season is an adaptation of "Cool Air."  It was scripted by Rod Serling himself, who -- in a not entirely unsatisfying fashion -- turned it into a love story, but otherwise kept it fairly faithful.  Barbara Rush plays the daughter of a former colleague of Dr. Munos, the self-embalmed corpse who has remained sentient and ambulatory through sheer determination (and his ammonia-based cooling machine, of course).  Munos is played by Henry Darrow, television's Zorro himself.

It's a decent episode.  I continue to be struck by how frequently Lovecraft adaptations have had romance and/or sex foisted upon them by the filmmakers.  It doesn't surprise me, exactly; after all, you can count on Hollywood to add a love interest four times out of five, so why should Lovecraft have been exempt?

The third season premiere was an episode called "Return of the Sorcerer," and it includes a subplot featuring the Necronomicon.  It was based on a Clark Ashton Smith story, but I thought it merited a mention.  Plus, Vincent Price is the star, so there's that, too.
  
  
Re-Animator
(1985)




Nearly a decade and a half passed between those Night Gallery episodes and the next notable Lovecraft adaptation: Stuart Gordon's cult classic Re-Animator, which is probably the majority choice for most-beloved Lovecraft movie.

I enjoy it, but I can't honestly say it's anything more than a b-movie.  Does it need to be?  Probably not.  After all, it's not exactly one of Lovecraft's best stories; it's fine, and the movie does a good job of replicating its tricky combination of creepiness and humor, but the ceiling for its potential quality was never sky-high.  I mean, "Herbert West -- Reanimator" ain't exactly "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," you know?

Still, the movie is a lot of fun, with a good central performance by Jeffrey Combs, some terrific effects (including one of the better talking-severed-head gags in cinema history), and some really fucked-up sexual content.  You might think you've seen a lady get head on film before, but trust me, you haven't seen it like this.  Barbara Crampton, boy . . . yes sir.  That's all I'll say about that, lest I out myself as some sort of degenerate.

In all seriousness, it is interesting to note that this was the fifth major feature film to be based on Lovecraft's work, and the third out of those five to include sexual material of a rather frank nature.  It's moderately restrained in The Dunwich Horror, but it's there; and The Crimson Cult goes a bit further than that.  The peculiarities of Re-Animator are more graphic by far, as was common in the eighties.

What's interesting about that is that Lovecraft's own stories were so utterly lacking in sexuality.  There are only a handful of romances that are even tangentially present in his work, and you can count the number of prominent female characters on one hand.  You'd need two if you included his revisions and ghostwritings, but not by much.

And yet, there can be no doubt that a pervasive and unsettling sexuality underlies many of the stories.  As Alan Moore pointed out in some interview I remember too poorly to cite, where do you suppose all those half-human/half-__________ hybrids come from?  It ain't from no tentacled stork, that's for sure.  Them folks be gettin' down in Arkham and Dunwich and Innsmouth.  (Speaking of Moore, he will be happy to give you a very -- VERY -- graphic depiction of what one such union might look like in Neonomicon.  If you wish for your comics to be free of "male" ejaculations, then steer clear.)

With that in mind, what do you suppose it says that over half of the first five Lovecraft-derived movies went rather in the opposite direction of Lovecraft's own stories on the subject of sexuality?  Perhaps nothing about Lovecraft, but something about his fans; that's a possibility.
  
  
From Beyond
(1986)
 



Another Lovecraft adaptation from Stuart Gordon, who also directed Re-Animator, this one is similarly iffy in terms of its fidelity to the source material but also similarly enjoyable.  So in my book, that's a win.

Also returning from Re-Animator: stars Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, both of whom are very good here.  I was particularly impressed by Crampton, who is arguably the film's protagonist.  I also like Ken Foree, who plays a policeman on the single worst prisoner-babysitting assignment in history.

The makeup effects are an obvious ripoff of The Thing, and on this movie's budget, that's a losing proposition.  That said, they are rather good in several scenes, and are memorable even when they aren't all that good.

The movie also has a palpable undercurrent of kinky sexuality.  You might could remove the "under" and simply call it a current; it's more or less part of the text.  Again, this has nothing to do with Lovecraft; but, again, the absence of sex in Lovecraft is SO prominent that it almost goes around the horn and becomes a presence, which makes something like the girl-gets-finger-raped-by-an-interdimensional-monster scene in this movie bizarrely appropriate.

Or not.  Depends on your point of view, I guess.
  
  
The Curse
(1987)




Actor David Keith directed The Curse, a 1987 adaptation of "The Colour Out of Space" that relocates the story to rural Tennessee in effective fashion.

The geographical color is one of the few successful things in the movie, unfortunately.  The rest of the movie is so inept that the opening credits misspell the lead actor's name: Wil Wheaton (who began his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation the same year) becomes "Will" Wheaton.  Not a good sign.  Wheaton himself is okay, and Claude Akins and John Schneider lend a bit of authority, but otherwise, this is a poorly-made mess.

Stephen King connections: director Keith co-starred in Firestarter; Wheaton was a year removed from his Stand By Me role; and the stunningly-awful AND stunningly-annoying Malcolm Danare had appeared in Christine as Moochie.
  
  
The Unnamable
(1988)




Hey, here's a surprise: the movie The Unnamable doesn't actually have all that much to do with Lovecraft's story "The Unnamable."  I know, right?!?  Hard to believe.

The setup is that Randolph Carter and a couple of college friends get into shenanigans in a literally-right-next-door-to-campus Creepy Abandoned House, where a hideous malefic presence still lurks.  A couple of jocks and a couple of babes -- one of whom we are expected to find non-babelicious simply because she's got an accent or doesn't have big tits or something silly like that -- end up in the house, too.  The end result: a sort of slasher-movie vibe that doesn't work especially well.

You'll also be surprised to learn that it is, in general, just not a very good movie.  That said, I didn't hate it; it's got some of the charms inherent to eighties trash-horror cinema, such as an inappropriate end-credits pop song.  (I really wish somebody would put out a compilation of the best/worst of those.)  And if you ever wanted to see a monster dispatched by an animate tree, this movie will scratch that itch for you.
  
  
Pulse Pounders ("The Evil Clergyman")
(1988)
 



Here's the deal with Pulse Pounders: it was an Empire Pictures anthology film that consisted of short sequels to Trancers and The Dungeonmaster (which have no Lovecraft connections whatsoever), plus "The Evil Clergyman," which reunited Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, who had appeared in Lovecraft adaptations Re-Animator and From Beyond.  (Those were directed by Stuart Gordon; this was directed by Charles Band.)  Empire Pictures fell into ruin, however, and the movie was never released.

Years and years later, the component parts finally began to trickle out on their own, however, including "The Evil Clergyman," which got a DVD release in 2012.  I think it's fantastic that this happened.  I mean, sure, the end result is a workprint-quality VHS rip ported onto DVD, but heck, it's better than nothing.

The film itself is nothing special, alas.  It's got very little to do with the story, apart from the presence of a noose, a clergyman, and a body-swap.  It's got at least one element drawn from "The Dreams in the Witch House": an appearance by good ol' Brown Jenkin, bless his heart.  He's unnamed here; but you and I both know what's up.

Barbara Crampton has the lead role here, and she's great.  She continues her Lovecraft-film debauchery by having sex with a ghost, fellating a hung corpse (by which I mean the corpse of a man who recently hanged himself with a noose), and having analingus performed upon her by a rat with a human face.  I'm exaggerating.  Barely.

Crampton is genuinely good, though.  In a better universe, she'd have gotten a big mainstream role at some point and become a superstar.  She would have made a terrific Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Jeffrey Combs is also very good.  This guy, too, man; how he avoided superstardom is a mystery to me.  Poor work by his agent, I suspect.

Anyways, the short film is okay if you like any of the actors or if you're a Lovecraft completist.  I bought the DVD, because I figure it's worthwhile to support a project like this one.  Remember, guys, there's a partially-completed movie version of Apt Pupil starring Rick Schroeder and Nicol Williams out there; supporting something like The Evil Clergyman is a vote for that footage getting released someday.
  
  
Bride of Re-Animator
(1990)




Any movie with Jeffrey Combs in it is beginning with a one-point lead over the competition.  So there's that.  The sequel brings in a few elements of Lovecraft's short story that didn't appear in the original.  So there's that, too.

Otherwise, this sequel has very little going for it.  It's dreadful.  Director Stuart Gordon didn't return, and neither did Barbara Crampton; both are keenly missed.

Among the co-stars: Fabiana Udenio, a gorgeous Italian actress who made an impression upon me in both Babylon 5 and Austin Powers (she played Alotta Fagina in the latter); and Claude Earl Jones, who is not even vaguely as cool as his not-brother James Earl Jones.
  
  
The Resurrected
(1991)




Occasionally referred to as both Shatterbrain and The Ancestor (though it was never, so far as I can tell, released under either title), The Resurrected is a solid adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward that was directed by Dan O'Bannon.  You may know O'Bannon from films such as Alien, Return of the Living Dead, Dark Star, or Total Recall.  He's kind of a big deal.

The Resurrected was a low-key (and low-budget) affair, and I don't want to make any claims that it's a hidden masterpiece.  I did enjoy it a good bit, though.  It's trashy in a fun sort of way; it keeps more of Lovecraft's story and tone than is generally the case in these adaptations; it casts John Terry in a leading-man role; and its supporting cast (Chris Sarandon, Jane Sibbett, Robert Romanus) is good.  There are some nicely gross special effects and makeup, which is always a plus; and the score by Lovecraft-movie veteran Richard Band is effective.

In other words, this film has a lot going for it.

It's got a lot working against it, too.  Namely, it feels like a two-hour television-series pilot episode.  It's a pilot for a series I would probably have watched during the early nineties, so there's that; but, nevertheless, it's just a bit on the squalid side.

Still, it ranks in the upper echelons of Lovecraft-based movies.
  
  
The Unnamable Returns
(aka The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter)
(1992)




The sequel picks up more or less exactly where the first film left off.  It's just as mildly Lovecraftian, too, although it does borrow some elements of "The Statement of Randolph Carter" for its middle act.  It also slings a lot of Cthulhu Mythos terminology at the screen in the third act (even including a reference to Yig!) that is kind of fun to hear somebody in a movie speak aloud.

Yig help me, but I actually enjoyed this movie.  It's terrible; don't misunderstand me.  But I did enjoy it.  Mark Kinsey Stephenson and Charles Clausmeyer reprise their roles from the first film, and they're both having fun; John Rhys-Davies shows up, and he's always fun; Maria Ford walks around naked for about half the movie (albeit with incredibly long hair covering her naughty bits); and Julie Strain plays the monster, although you'd probably only know that from the credits, or from being a pervert obsessed with Julie Strain.

All in all, this one is another strike-out, but one that you might get a kick out of if you enjoy trashy horror movies.
  
  
Necronomicon
(1993)




Variably known as Necronomicon: To Hell and Back and Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead (or as it is frequently referred to online, Necronomicon: Book of Dead), this is a bit of a turd under any title.  It's an anthology film consisting of three stories, plus a lengthy wraparound segment that stars Jeffrey Combs as Howard P. Lovecraft himself.  For some reason, Combs wears extensive prosthetic makeup that makes him look not like Lovecraft, but like Bruce Campbell.  Why?  Beats me.

The three segments: "The Drowned" (based incredibly loosely on "The Rats in the Walls"), "The Cold" (a butchering of "Cool Air"), and "Whispers" (which is allegedly based on "The Whisperer in Darkness," though I'll be Yig-damned if I can find much evidence of it).

Stephen King connection: Dennis Christopher, who played Eddie Kaspbrak in It, appears in "The Cold."  And if that's enough to get you to watch this movie, you have my pity.  This despite the fact that it's arguably a better reason than the one I'm claiming...


Lurking Fear
(1994)


Why the "Infinite Evil" subtitle?  Beats me.


This one has Jeffrey Combs; Jon Finch, the guy who once starred in the late-career Hitchcock film Frenzy; Vincent Schiavelli, playing a creep; Ashley Laurence, seemingly channeling Linda Hamilton, or trying to; decent creature design; and virtually no connection to Lovecraft's story "The Lurking Fear."  It's about a town somewhere that is infested by subterranean mutants, none of whom seem to have intentions of doing much beyond lurking, apart from the occasional bout of yanking people into the walls or under the floors.  I think they kill them after that, but I can't be sure.

Into this mix enters a redneck ex-con who is sent on a treasure hunt by an undertaker, and who is followed there by some gangsters.  The movie is lousy from the opening frame, and never gets any better, although some of the performances are okay.  I mean, Jeffrey Combs is squandered, but he's still Jeffrey Combs.

Skip it unless you are a completist weirdo.  Or even if you are, quite frankly.
  
  
Castle Freak
(1995)




The quartet of director Stuart Gordon, stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, and composer Richard Band returned for the third film in their unofficial Lovecraft trilogy, Castle Freak, which is based very loosely on "The Outsider."  I'll go ahead and save you the suspense: you never get to see the hot blind girl's titties.  Also, she's a teenager, you reprobate; so go give yourself twenty lashes with the nearest cat-o'-nine-tails you can find.

As with the other Gordon films, Castle Freak is a compellingly perverse bit of nastiness that stands in marked opposition to the single-minded (and somewhat suspicious) chasteness of Lovecraft's stories.  I don't know if anybody has ever written a book on this topic, but if not, it's a prime candidate.

The story: Americans Combs and Crampton (plus their blind daughter, played quite well by Jessica Dollarhide) have come to Italy to live in a castle inherited by Combs.  The duchess who lived there was once married to his father, or something like that.  She's died, but you want to know who hasn't?  The frequently-tortured man she's had chained in her dungeon for years, starving and beaten and rather maladjusted.  Through happenstance, he gets loose and begins causing problems for everyone in sight.

Things are made more interesting by virtue of the fact that the married couple is barely hanging on: Combs' character is a Shining-esque recovering alcoholic, who in the not-too-distant past went drunk driving.  This resulted in his son's death, his daughter's blinding, and a fair bit of marital discord with Crampton.

Obviously, none of this is present in the Lovecraft story.  The only thing that survives from "The Outsider" is the character getting out and then seeing himself in a mirror.  The story has empathy for him; the movie is horrified by him, and turns him into a monster.  Did I mention that he eats out a prostitute in one scene?  You've never seen this sort of cunnilingus, one hopes.  It's even worse than the equivalent scene in Re-Animator, which is saying something; not, mercifully, AS awful as it could be . . . but pretty dang awful.  And that's kind of a good thing; you want horror to horrify every so often, don't you?

It's a solid flick.  I've become a fan of Gordon's Lovecraft movies during this process.  Combs and Crampton are terrific, as is the cast in general; but the two of them particularly, and you can't help but wish somebody had had the sense to cast them in major mainstream roles.  These are two gifted actors at work; they aid the movie tremendously, which is a good thing, but why couldn't they have been performing similar services for Scorsese or Spielberg or somebody like that?  I guarantee you they were -- and still are -- up to the challenge.  I'd pay good money to visit the parallel universe where Martin Scorsese directed them in a remake of The Shining; I bet that's awesome.
 

Dagon
(2001)




Director Stuart Gordon strikes again, this time without stars Barbara Crampton and/or Jeffrey Combs.  You certainly feel their absence, too; they class a joint up a bit.

This is an okay movie, though.  It's based on part on "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," and captures some of that story's immense appeal; not much of it, but enough to be of interest.

The film was made in Spain, and has a lot of Spanish actors in it.  Some of them are downright unintelligible; the drunk-old-man role is filled by a guy who seems to have been a pretty good actor, but who cannot speak a word of English.  He tries, though; boy, does he.  I understood roughly one word out of every twenty.  This is a problem when he is asked to narrate a flashback scene that explains most of the plot.  Oh, well; no movie's perfect, I guess.

The best thing here by far is Macarena Gómez, who is ludicrously beautiful and has crazy eyes.




She plays a half-squid/half-woman who wears a giant tiara and wants to hump her brother so they can live together as immortals.  So, yeah, it's that kind of a movie.  Yet again, you can feel H.P. Lovecraft growing uncomfortable in his grave, but by now, you probably expect that.
  
  
Beyond Re-Animator
(2003)




This Spanish production was directed by the guy who made Bride of Re-Animator, and debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel.  Don't get your hopes up.

It's bad, but I'd say it's moderately better than Bride.  It's got virtually nothing to do with Lovecraft, of course, although the prison setting (West has been convicted and jailed) means that if you are just desperate to do so, you could consider it to have been inspired by "The Last Test."  If that describes you, then God help you, because I can't.

Jeffrey Combs is back, and he has a few decent moments, but this is a far cry from most of his other Lovecraft work.  Jason Barry plays his new protege, "Howard Phillips."  Sheesh.

Elsa Pataky -- whom you might know from the later Fast & Furious movies or from being Mrs. Chris Hemsworth -- is also on hand, mainly to look good, which she does.

I've seen worse movies, and have written about worse movies in this very post; still, this is crappy, crappy doo-doo.  There is one decent Green Mile joke, though, which makes for another bit of proof that this post is permissible on a Stephen King blog.  Take that, naysayers!

  
The Call of Cthulhu
(2005)





A production of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, The Call of Cthulhu is a thoroughly entertaining film that approaches the material from a very interesting angle: the conceit is that this is an attempt to replicate what a vintage silent-movie-era adaptation of the story would have been like.  So yes, it's a silent film, complete with theatrical overacting, title cards, a piano score, and crude effects.  If that description puts you off, then this is not the movie for you.

Everyone else, prepare to have fun.  You're also going to see what is by far the most true-to-Lovecraft movie made to date, and that comes as a huge breath of fresh air if you've been watching these movies in chronological order, the way I have.

If you wanted to do so, you could label this as either a "fan film" or as an "amateur production."  There are a lot of those out there, when it comes to Lovecraft; after all, his work is in the public domain, so if I had a notion to do so, I could go make a movie right now based on "The Cats of Ulthar."  So could you.  So could J.J. Abrams.  Thing is, just because somebody films a thing doesn't make it a "real" movie, in my book.  So for me, one of two things has to happen in order for me to include it in an overview like this one: it has to be produced by professionals (no matter how shady or untalented they may be), or it has to be good enough for me to not care that it was done by amateurs.

I'm not 100% sure the HPLHS counts as amateurs, by the way.  I confess that I have not done the legwork to find out.  Either way, their work here is accomplished enough that The Call of Cthulhu easily ranks among the best Lovecraft adaptations ever filmed.  Any fan of the story who can stomach the idea of a silent-movie adaptation is urged to check it out forthwith.

  
Masters of Horror season 1 episode 2:
"Dreams in the Witch-House"
(2005)




Masters of Horror was a horror-anthology show that ran on Showtime for two seasons.  It was created by Mick Garris, which makes it a bit surprising that there were no episodes based on Stephen King stories.  Kind of a shame, actually; from what I've seen, it was a fairly good series.

"Dreams in the Witch-House" was adapted by HPL-on-film stalwart Stuart Gordon, and he does a good job with it.  It sticks reasonably close to the story, updating the setting to current-day and adding a single mother with an infant living in the room next door to the protagonist.  That's a deviation form Lovecraft, but it's one that actually makes the plot a bit more compact, so it works.

Ezra Godden, who starred in Dagon, returns for his second Gordon/Lovecraft team-up.  He's fine, as is co-star Chelah Horsdal, but you can kind of sense that if Gordon had his way, he'd have been filming this with Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton in the mid-eighties.  Hard to blame him, if so.

One complaint: Brown Jenkin doesn't work.  And he's never referred to as Brown Jenkin!
  

The Whisperer in Darkness
(2007)
 



A second production by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, this adaptation of one of HPL's best stories is just as technically accomplished as the first one.  Maybe even more so.  Where their The Call of Cthulhu was in the mode of a silent-era film, this one is a '50s matinee flick through and through.

As such, it's impressive.  The actors uniformly do a strong job of fitting the style of the era without devolving into parody; they -- with a few bum notes here and there -- do a credible enough job that I can easily imagine any number of people watching this and simply thinking it was a vintage sci-fi flick they'd never heard of.

My problem with the movie is that it strays quite far from Lovecraft's story.  This is perhaps a necessity, and I enjoy most of the additions/expansions (including fun supporting roles for "characters" Charles Fort and Ray Bradbury); but one can't help but think that a film undertaken by a group self-billed as the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Society would have a bit more fealty to their namesake.

I was also disappointed somewhat by the way the Akeley character was handled when it came time for Wilmarth to have his near-dark conversation with the old fellow.  It appears to my eye that the filmmakers decided they weren't capable of pulling off the central idea of the scene (if you've read the story, you'll know what I'm referring to), and opted to simply not try.  Understandable, and I suppose that it's preferable to alter paths if you expect to fail while traveling down the one you're on.

Still, I can't help but be disappointed, and I hope that somebody else gives it a shot someday.

All things considered, though, I enjoyed this movie.  I'll happily watch the next one the HPLHS produces.

The Dunwich Horror
(2009)


This movie -- which debuted on the Syfy Channel -- is so low-rent that it seemingly doesn't even have promotional art.  Hence, I decided to not even include an image.

It's bad -- of course it is! -- but I've seen worse.  I'd place it above Bride of Re-Animator, Necronomicon, and Lurking Fear, for sure.  The screenplay is halfway decent, and the main cast is surprisingly okay.  It's got Dean Stockwell co-starring in his second Dunwich Horror adaptation, this time playing Dr. Armitage credibly well; it's got Jeffrey Combs playing Wilbur Whateley; and I rather like the leads, Griff Furst and Sarah Lieving, who have a sort of Mulder and Scully vibe in an underexplored way.

The film is undone by two factors: it's poorly directed, and it's incredibly cheap.  The effects are about as bad as they get; we're talking Langoliers-bad.  Leigh Scott's direction is amateurish, and shows a clear infatuation with the redneck-chic style of Rob Zombie.

Now there's a thought!  Zombie directing a Lovecraft adaptation!  I could get behind that.  "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is the first thing that comes to mind, but "The Colour Out of Space" might be a good pick, too.  Somebody make that happen!

Thus far, this weak-sauce Syfy Channel movie is the final Lovecraft movie to be made professionally.  [EDIT, 10-2-16: This is seemingly not true.  A German film named Die Farbe came out in 2010.  It's a mostly-excellent adaptation of The Color Out of Space.  It's a bit ponderous, and some of the effects don't entirely work; but overall, it is WELL worth seeing for Lovecraft fans.]  You've got to figure that eventually another one is going to come along.  Is it too much to hope for a great one?  I'd settle for a good one (and maybe even for a mediocre one), but it's time a really great A-list one came around.  Maybe someday.

For now, though, we'll call and end to our discussion of Lovecraft movies.  I was tempted to cover other titles that show a persuasive Lovecraftian influence -- In the Mouth of Madness, Cast a Deadly Spell, Prince of Darkness, The Thing -- but decided that might be one step too far.

I know at least one reader has been annoyed by these Lovecraft posts.  Sorry about that!  Not that sorry, though.  I consider an exploration of the writers and other artists whose work influenced King to be very much on-topic for this blog.

I've got a five-part series of posts coming up soon, though, that is 100% off-topic: an epic overview of the career of composer John Williams.  Why would I do such a thing?  Well, it's something that I felt like writing, and I figured that if I went to all the trouble of writing it, I might as well put it up here for people to read.  Figured I'd warn you in advance, so that if it vexes you too much you can make plans to ignore it.

Look for it -- or don't -- soon!

50 comments:

  1. Some big names in that Lovecraft Unbound collection. Well, all of these, but I was surprised to see Michael Chabon and Joyce Carol Oates. Though now that I think of it, Chabon spoke pretty knowingly of horror in Maps and Legends, and Joyce Carol Oates edited a Collection of Gothic Horror Stories I have, so I guess it’s not too, too surprising.

    I’m interested in picking up that one with the Alan Moore stories (and “Lovecraft in Heaven” by Morrison as well).

    Man, that “Die Monster Die” poster with the eyeless Karloff is terrific. (“The Dunwich Horror” one… slightly less so. Or terrific in a whole slew of different ways, I should say. It does make me want to watch “Possession” with Sam Neill again sometime soon. That main titles music is great, though, and sounds like a fun flick.)

    And who knew Putin’s forgotten career as a b-actor! Makes you wonder. I haven’t even HEARD of “The Crimson Altar,” which is odd because I went through a phase where I snatched up what I thought was all the Barbara Steele horror that existed. Clearly I was remiss. Oh well, something new to track down.

    I hadn’t realized just how much Lovecraftian “Night Gallery” was produced, nor the prominent role Barbara Crampton played in all of these. I’ve seen “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond” – “From Beyond” especially I used to enjoy quite a bit in the VHS Age – but it’s been so long. Never saw “The Evil Clergyman,” though now I realize I must, just to complete the Combs/Crampton quartet. (I have fond memories of watching “Castle Freak” but remember very little about it.) I agree, too, she had way more potential than was realized by Hollywood. At least Combs had a great second life in Star Trek.

    Jaysus, Macarena Gómez.

    I’d really like to check out that silent “Call of Cthulhu”. Did you ever see that “Lumiere and Company” film from a few years back? Apologies if we’ve discussed elsewhere. The David Lynch segment in that is amazing, and the best silent horror film ever made, even if it only last a minute. But I bet this would give it a run for its money. It’s kind of a can’t lose (at least with me) idea.

    Looking forward to that John Williams series of posts very much. I have told at least two people in the past few weeks that what they really love about Star Wars is the music and just don’t realize it. You should see the angry Fury Road-esque things in my rearview upon making such remarks.

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    Replies
    1. You're almost certainly right, though; the music may not be the ONLY thing they/we love, but it's certainly on the list. It's remarkable how many people fail to actually take notice of how important music is to filmmaking. "Fury Road" included, by the way.

      I did not see "Lumiere and Company," though I was intrigued by its existence. That's a great idea for a movie; I'm surprised more people haven't tried that sort of thing. As for Lynch, I remain shockingly knowledgeless about most of his work. I've seen "Dune," though!

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    2. Lumiere is indeed an intriguing premise, but to be honest, most of it really is crap. There's only so much you can do with a minute's worth of film, but then you see Lynch's and you realize "Oh... everyone else barely tried:"

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WQzCFXoGoc

      Of course, depending on how you feel about Lynch, this might seem very much like not trying too hard, either... And perhaps I overstate the creepiness factor of this minute-film. Just watched it again and while I still think it's just marvelously weird, eerie, and compelling, I certainly wouldn't say it's the best silent horror film ever made, as initially suggested/ hyperbole'd. Still, an intriguing 59 seconds to say the very least.

      I wonder what Lynch would do with something like Lovecraft, actually. He certainly delves deep into the dark, and he has a certain old-school-sensibility to boot. I could see him either knocking it out of the park or striking out entirely - either/or.

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    3. Based on what I know of Lynch -- and I have also seen "Blue Velvet" and "Lost Highway," so I've got at least a mild sense of what he does -- I think he'd probably do something very interesting with Lovecraft. Both of them seem to share a profound fear; perhaps not necessarily of the same thing(s), but there seems like there would be enough overlap for the end result to be very interesting.

      This reminds me (again) that I need to get caught up on "Twin Peaks" before the new season. I don't think that's until 2017, though, so I've got time.

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    4. Quite an impressive list all around. I've got "The Haunted Palace" waiting in the wings, someday. It's part of a two volume Vincent Price DVD collection.

      I've also seen "Die Monster Die". What struck me as most notable about that film, aside from the kinda creepy melting wife, and Karloff's turn as the Silver Surfer, was how they injected Lovecraft's cosmic nihilism with the cautious, yet optimistic atomic age ethos that was a staple of a lot of films like it at the time.

      As for the rest of the list, I got a lot of catching up to do (not that I mind), including one adaptation I didn't see on the list, "Die Farbe" (German: "The Color"). It's a German adapt of "Colour Out of Space", and going from the trailer alone:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t-MxVyublk

      They seem to be going for a cross between Corman and Bergman. Sounds kinda interesting, really. The even better news is that it is available on DVD:

      http://www.amazon.com/Color-Out-Space-Limited-Blu-ray/dp/B00U2YNKQU/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

      Yes, don't worry about the title, it's been Americanized. A common practice with imported foreign films.

      To be concluded.

      ChrisC

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    5. Concluded from above.

      In addition to this, the director of "The Color" has started a new crowd-funding campaign to make an actual film of "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath":

      https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-dreamlands-h-p-lovecrafts-dream-cycle#/

      Also, there was one adaptation of "Dream Quest" already that I've not been able to find, but that is supposed to be an actual animated film:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcHOsrQCdH8

      As to the story collections, it's nice to see Harlan Ellison is such a gung-ho fan! What's also nice is some of those title sound like drive-in type flicks that Gordon might make (that Scorsese version of "Shining" sounds interesting, if only).

      Technically, Lynch has directed a Lovecraft film, with Eraserhead. That said, if he wanted to do a straight (whatever that means for him) adaptation of one of the stories, then I'd for sure be curious to see the results. If I had to guess at writers who share themes in common with Lynch, then I guess I'd go with King, although I can see how Lovecraft could be added to that list.

      I think the theme that unites all three is the hollowness of modern society concealing a dark, secret heart underneath the surface appearance of things. In that regard, King, Lynch, and Lovecraft could be said to share the same office (now there's an idea for a law firm).

      ChrisC

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    6. Lynch, Lovecraft & King, partners at law . . . they take your case, and then they take your LIFE!!!!!

      Or something like that.

      I'd heard of "Die Farbe" before, via a friend of mine who is an even bigger Lovecraft enthusiast than I am. I considred including it on this list simply out of deference to him, but I opted not to simply because I'm not sure I believe it's a professionally-made film. Granted, it may be; and even if it isn't, the line between professional films and amateur films is blurry and getting blurrier by the day. For example, both of the films from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society could be considered to be "amateur" films.

      In their case, I decided their virtues were significant enough that the difference between "professional" and "amateur" was not worth worrying about. Lord knows that a film being professionally made is no guarantee that it won't be amateurish! Therefore, you've got to figure the inverse is true.

      Thing is, there are SO many "amateur" films based on Lovecraft that simply sorting them out is more of a chore than I'm willing to undertake. Therefore, anything that I wasn't immediately certain was a film financed and released by professionals OR wasn't an amateur film that I had seen and could vouch for personally was not considered for inclusion on this particular overview.

      I will probably get around to see "Die Farbe" relatively soon, and if I feel like it needs to be added, I'll probably do so.

      I hope it's good. If so, I'll happily see their version of "Dream-Quest."

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    7. Is there an explicit connection between "Eraserhead" and Lovecraft? I've never heard or read that anywhere. I can see thematic overlap, but the same could be said of "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" and a few others.

      Delete
    8. Having never seen "Eraserhead," I'm unqualified to speak on that subject.

      Somebody put me in my shiny new robotic body, and I'll get caught up on Lynch in no time flat.

      Delete
    9. Sorry, that was addressed to Chris. But I'll take one of those shiny robot bodies too, while we're here. Preferably one with all sorts of bells and whistles. (Not literally. That'd be lame.)

      Delete
    10. I wonder if I could be trusted with a robot body. Part of me fears I'd immediately turn into Ultron.

      Delete
  2. Die Farbe is not bad in my opinion! Some of the changes didn't thrill me but I think it's definitely worth watching. I am biased though because The Color out of space is one of my favourite short stories, I read it the first time when I was 9 as a comic adaption on this children magazine published by the most important publishing house of religious books in my country (I kid you not) and it terrified me.

    Mircalla

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    1. Wow! That's an unlikely place to have encountered Lovecraft, especially given how deeply atheistic he was. Very interesting!

      Thanks for the recommendation on the movie -- I will check it out at some point soon, I hope.

      Delete
    2. I forgot to come back and comment on it, but I did finally see "Die Farbe." I thought it was a bit tedious in places, but overall, good -- and certainly well worth seeing.Does't quite do justice to the story, but how could it?

      Delete
  3. I'm sure I'll have more to say when I've had time to read the entire post, but I just wanted to say that I have seen The Call of Cthulhu, and I think it's brilliantly done. It's also creepier than a modern production with CGI could ever be.

    I'm getting inspired to write something Lovecraftian. Gotta think on that.

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    1. I think a top-notch modern production could be great. CGI doesn't have to be bad; it's all in how you use it. If I were making it, though, I'd do my best never to actually show Cthulhu.

      Delete
    2. Interesting. Why is that? We know what he looks like. I understand that he could end up looking like a poor copy of the Kraken from Clash of the Titans, and fear is the opposite of how we'd feel when we see him, but maybe keeping him to the shadows would work.

      Delete
    3. Well, the idea with Cthulhu is that he's so incredible that you literally go mad upon seeing him. ANY visualization of him (it?) is going to be a letdown in comparison to that, unless you pull a Giger and come up with a design that is so disturbing that people almost don't even know what they are looking at.

      If I were producing a movie of it, I'd hire artists to take a crack at doing that very thing, but if they didn't come up with something that made me almost literally poop my drawers, I'd go the "Blair Witch" (one of my favorite movies) route and simply not show you anything.

      Delete
    4. It's too bad Giger couldn't be hired for this.

      Delete
  4. I'm familiar with Kim Newman as the author of the Anno Dracula series. I've got several volumes of that, which, like you with these, I've never read.

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  5. For what it's worth, I'm not at all annoyed by your posts about Lovecraft. I just have very little frame of reference for most of it. I'm sure it's very interesting stuff, but I just stumbled onto this blog a couple of months ago and I have a long way to go before I finish with the King bibliography. With the Adapting Stephen King blog, which you alerted me to, I've kept myself occupied. I'll probably check out some of your John Williams stuff.

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    1. Yeah, that Adapting Stephen King blog is pretty damn great, isn't it? That's a very interesting and effective way to discuss King's work.

      I'll have another King-short-story review up in a few days, by the way.

      Delete
  6. Well, Halloween season is nearly upon us, and I've determined that Halloween season is going to be Lovecraft season at the offices of The Truth Inside The Lie from this point forward. To that end, I've decided to start tackling the collections mentioned at the beginning of this post, in the order in which I presented them here. I'm shooting for one story per night, although I'm almost certain to miss a night here and there.

    We'll start light: with the introduction to "Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos." Written by James Turner, it begins with a paragraph excerpted from a 1936 letter-to-the-editor published in Amazing Stories chastising the publication for running drivel like Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness." Turner goes on to refute the assertion that that novella is drivel, and makes a semi-plausible case for seeing Lovecraft as a forerunner of modern scientific thinking.

    From there, he bemoans the rise posthumous to Lovecraft of imitators, specifically of his Cthulhu mythos. Turner asserts that Lovecraft's "mythos" was less a hard-and-fast set of stories than it was an evolving consciousness and ethos on Lovecraft's part. Thus, not all stories within Lovecraft's own mythos are entirely consistent with each other, but they ARE all consistent with Lovecraft's evolving sense of self and identity. This, of course, is what the majority of mythos pastiches by other authors lack.

    Good news: this particular collection gathers together a bunch of the good ones.

    We'll dive into those each in turn, of course.

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    1. First up: "The Call of Cthulhu" by Lovecraft himself. I'd obviously read this story before, probably half a dozen times or so. It worked for me this time just as it always has.

      I was struck this time by the dread that hangs over the story; not the dread of the eventual re-emergence of Cthulhu himself (although that too), but the dread the narrator has for the likely possibility that he is soon to be assassinated for the knowledge which he possesses. He's put it all down on paper simply because that's how his mind works; but he wishes that the executors of his will might eventually destroy his account and the items that accompany it.

      It would be very possible to dismiss the story by objecting to this: after all, if he wants for nobody else to ever see these words and thereby gain the knowledge contained within them, why not burn the manuscript? It's a fair point. But I find it to be satisfying to consider that by reading the "manuscript" (in the form of the story itself), we readers are individually taking part in reading the forbidden memories of a man who has likely been murdered as the result of his investigations. Does the mere reading of the story place us in similar danger?

      Not in the literal sense, of course, but if we are willing to pretend that we are characters in some sequel to the story, then we do enter into a sort of metaphorical danger.

      Who doesn't love that sort of stuff?

      Delete
    2. "The Return of the Sorcerer" by Clark Ashton Smith:

      One part "The Picture in the House," one part "The Rats in the Walls," one part "Re-Animator" (the movie moreso than the serial by Lovecraft). Probably a few other components in the mix, too.

      It was published in 1931, and while it's got echoes of the above-mentioned stories, it certainly works all on its own. The story involves a man who is hired by a reclusive scholar to be a live-in translator. He's got excellent skills when it comes to translating Arabic, which the recluse needs to shore up his knowledge of the Necronomicon. He's got the original, you see, and suspects that the Latin translation by Olaus Wormius omitted several key sections.

      That damn Necronomicon...

      Don't get me wrong; I love it. but for such a forbidden and ill-whispered tome, it sure does get around a lot. Some sumbitch is always using it, and whatever hapless sumbitch is witnessing him do it has always already heard of it. Nobody in these stories is ever all like, "Necrowhattacon?!? Never heard of it."

      You have to let stuff like that go, though, or a story like this one is worthless. I enjoyed "The Return of the Sorcerer" quite a bit. It's got some memorably gruesome stuff toward the end, and you kind of wish Stuart Gordon could have made a movie of it.

      There IS an adaptation: the first episode of the third season of "Night Gallery," starring Vincent Price and Bill Bixby. I do believe I'll give that a watch tomorrow and update these comments.

      Also worth mentioning: the third episode of the 2012 radio series "Suspense" adapted the tale, starring Tucker Smallwood (a personal favorite thanks to a great episode of "Millennium" in which he appeared). You can find that here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhykLTKMSzY

      Delete
    3. That "Night Gallery" episode is kinda awful/great. Bill Bixby wears a corduroy coat; Vincent Price gives a lot of great dramatic looks; there's a goat AND a toad; and Patricia (Tisha) Sterling is added to provide some sex interest. Which works, by the way; she appears to a right goer. She's got a Manson Girl sort of vibe to her performance, and has what appears to be groovy tits. Sorry to lower the conversation to that level, but I do believe I'm expected to notice.

      Anyways, it's worth a look if you dig the story, or Price, or "Night Gallery."

      I listened to the "Suspense" episode, too; not bad, provided you like radio dramas.

      Delete
    4. "Ubbo-Sathla" by Clark Ashton Smith:

      Published in 1933, this probably would be best described as a dream-cycle-esque tale. It's not very long, and involves an amateur anthropologist who purchases an orb to which he is strangely drawn. He uses it and realizes that Somewhere Else, a sort of sorcerer is also using it; the two of them kinda/sorta become the same person, and then some trippy shit happens.

      Smith does quite well with the conceit, and I can handily imagine Lovecraft giving this story a big thumbs-up.

      Delete
    5. "The Black Stone" by Robert E. Howard:

      Published in 1931. A Lovecraftian nameless-narrator/scholar type becomes intrigued by the work of Von Junzt (author of "Nameless Cults"), whom Howard seemingly invented for this story, and whom Lovecraft mentions in a few of his own stories. The narrator travels to Hungary to investigate the stone of the title; he has a REALLY fucked-up dream that may not actually have been a dream.

      That's about all there is to it, but it's good stuff. This was the first story by Howard I'd ever read. I've been wanting to read his Conan tales for years, and have never gotten around to it.

      "The Black Stone" might accelerate that process a bit.

      Delete
    6. I, too, have been edging closer and closer to the late great Mr. Howard. I want to read all the Conans and all the Kulls. Both of those titles were uncollected by me in my Marvel Zombie youth, but I seem to be determined to read everything Marvel put out from 1960 to 1990, so now they loom large as things to wipe out.

      But, beyond the comics, I just want to read the prose. I was thinking, even, once I see my way out of Clavell's Asian Saga, which'll take another month at least, maybe I'll start with the Conans.

      Delete
    7. I enjoyed "The Black Stone," so I see no reason why I wouldn't enjoy a bit of Conan and/or Kull.

      I'll happily follow Dog Star Omnibus into that breach!

      Delete
    8. "The Hounds of Tindalos" by Frank Belknap Long (1929):

      A very Lovecraftian story, for both good and (mostly) ill. It's the story of a writer who believes he has discovered a means of traveling through time. He does so, but doesn't actually go anywhere; instead, his consciousness spends a small amount of time existing everywhere all at once. He's somehow able to narrate this process while it happens, in a clunky and over-written segment that reads (to my mind) like a parody of Lovecraft's style.

      It's an admirable stab at a sort of creepily-omniscient sci-fi/horror moment, and if it works for you, then so will the story.

      It didn't work for me.

      Lovecraft mentioned the titular hounds in his own story "The Whisperer in Darkness."

      Delete
    9. "The Space-Eaters" by Frank Belknap Long (1928):

      Long was a friend and correspondent of Lovecraft, so it's perhaps not that surprising that this story features two protagonists named Frank and Howard.

      This is about all I'd say in the way of recommending it. Well, that and maybe also this: it's so badly-written, especially as regards dialogue, that it makes Lovecraft's own prose seem downright inspired.

      The fact is that I could barely wait for this story to end. I didn't enjoy it at all. It's about the above-mentioned men, another friend of whom comes to them one day with a strange story about being attacked by a gelatinous creature of some sort in the woods. It made a clean, bloodless hole all the way through his head, and apparently then crawled into the hole. Later, some fog happens and whatnot, but if you're like me, you stopped paying actual attention almost immediately.

      It's official: I am an anti-fan of Frank Belknap Long.

      Delete
    10. "The Dweller in Darkness" by August Derleth (1944):

      Our old nemesis August Derleth returns to soil this post once more.

      This story -- which is, at the very least, not billed as having been written by Lovecraft -- is about a couple of Lovecraftian fellows who are investigating the disappearance of a former professor near Rick's Lake. "Rick's Lake," y'all. Now, I don't know...maybe that's a real place, and not an invention of Derleth's. Either way, no piece of fiction should possess a body of water as lamely named as this one. If it's real, CHANGE IT. If you made it up, come up with something better.

      Anyways, Nyarlathotep is hanging around the woods near Rick's Lake, singing and occasionally abducting somebody. There's a stereotypically-drunken Indian named Old Pete, and there's italicized-for-effect text, and there's other hallmarks of Lovecraft pastiche.

      Worst of all, Lovecraft himself is a character in the story, after a fashion: the two guys go looking for the expected texts, such as the Necronomicon and The Book of Eibon and De Vermis Mysteriis, but they also use "The Outside and Others" by Lovecraft for reference.

      The implication, then, is that Lovecraft didn't make all of that up, but that he, like, transcribed it or something.

      Kind of a slap in his face, in some ways.

      Not a fan.

      Delete
    11. "Beyond the Threshold" by August Derleth (1941):

      It offends my sensibilities as they relate to ordering things for this anthology to have placed its two Derleth stories back-to-back and yet not in chronological order. The one reads almost as a sequel to the other, in some roundabout ways; and while it doesn't actually matter what order you read them in, if indeed it doesn't matter, then why not go chronologically?

      In any case, I thought this story -- which is about a couple of cousins whose visit to their grandfather's house coincides with some visitations in the local woods by Ithaqua, a rather tall alien being not unlike nyarlathotep -- was fairly good. Nothing more than that; this didn't cause me to reevaluate my overall stance toward Derleth. But it's okay as its own thing.

      Lovecraft is mentioned as a research resource in this story, just as he was in the later -- though not here (!) -- "The Dweller in Darkness." I continue to be a bit annoyed by that, but encountering it this time, I stopped for a few moments to consider the fact that 1941 is a world away from 2016. Lovecraft in 2016 is perhaps not a household name, but he's well-known. That was demonstrably not the case in 1941, and it is very possible to classify what Derleth is doing here as an embryonic form of viral marketing. Whatever else might be true, Derleth certainly cared about Lovecraft's work, and wanted it to find a larger audience.

      With that in mind, it's hard for me to want to beat the guy up too much for using Lovecraft's name as he uses it in these two stories.

      Delete
    12. "The Shambler from the Stars" by Robert Bloch (1935):

      As mentioned in the body of the post, this tale -- which is dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft -- forms the first part of a trilogy, the middle part of which is ol' HPL's "The Haunter of the Dark." I'll revisit that one tomorrow, or maybe the next day (since I'll be spending tomorrow taking part with a small group of friends in a Lovecraft-movie marathon).

      This particular story is about a weird-fiction-writer's efforts to locate some of the ancient books of darkness: the Necronomicon, perhaps, or the Book of Eibon. He can't find them, but he does find his very own copy of De Vermis Mysteriis, which Bloch invented for this story.

      With it, he visits a "cadaverous"-looking friend who lives in Providence, and while that singular personage is never identified as Lovecraft, it's obviously Bloch's intent for Lovecraft to have identified himself. Which is odd, given what happens to the fellow in the story; but perhaps not so odd as all that, considering that both authors did indeed traffic in weird fiction.

      You will perhaps have noticed that the appearance of a Lovecraft-like character in this story does not bother me in the way the mentions of Lovecraft did in the August Derleth stories from a comment or two ago. The reason why is simple: Bloch does his business gracefully, whereas Derleth does not. Bloch was a mere 18 years of age when this story was published, which makes that an even more remarkable thing.

      "The Shambler from the Stars" is not a great story -- and it certainly does not live up to its marvelous title -- but it's good, and that's good enough for me.

      Delete
    13. "The Haunter of the Dark" by H.P. Lovecraft (1936): This sequel to Robert Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars" names the unnamed protagonist from the earlier story: Robert Blake. I'm sure it's a coincidence that "Blake" and "Bloch" sound alike.

      Bloch had killed off a Lovecraft stand-in as part of "The Shambler from the Stars," so of course, Lovecraft kills off a Bloch stand-in. But there's no sense of this being a contentious, retaliatory thing; this does not seem to be the weird-tales equivalent of diss tracks exchanged between beefing rappers. No, it seemed like Bloch paying loving homage to a mentor, and the mentor raising an approving eyebrow and agreeing to play along.

      That said, it's by no means one of my favorite Lovecraft stories. It's good, and is great compared to some of the stuff in this anthology; but something about it slides right off of me. I can never remember much of anything about it from one reading to the next, and even while I was reading it tonight, I was forgetting it.

      Delete
    14. "The Shadow from the Steeple" by Robert Bloch (1950):

      It took nearly a decade and a half for him to do so, but Robert Bloch eventually wrote his own sequel to "The Haunter of the Dark," and this was it. He tries to one-up what's come before by way of making Lovecraft -- albeit in related memories alone -- an actual character in the story. In this sequel, Bloch writes that the deceased Robert Blake was a friend and colleague of Lovecraft's, and that Lovecraft had written "The Haunter of the Dark" as a semi-fictionalized account of Blake's sad end.

      The protagonist of this sequel is another writer, one who was a good friend of Blake's and who spends fifteen years investigating his death. These investigations lead him to a Dr. Dexter, who, we will learn -- spoiler alert! -- has been possessed by Nyarlathotep. Things get really crazy when it is revealed that Dexter/Nyarlathotep has used his influence and knowledge to help invent the nuclear bomb and thereby bring mankind closer to annihilation.

      Some of this is in fairly poor taste, but it's a well-written story, and I enjoyed reading it.

      For the record, though, "The Haunter of the Dark" stands on its own just fine, and seekers after Lovecraft's writing need not feel obligated to read the bookend stories written by Bloch.

      Delete
    15. "Notebook Found in a Deserted House" by Robert Bloch (1951):

      A twelve-year-old has to go live with his aunt and uncle after the untimely demise of his grandmother, which under normal circumstances would probably suck. These aren't normal circumstances, though, and his aunt and uncle live near some woods where "them ones" are also known to dwell. So basically nothing good happens.

      This is a cracker-jack of a story. Best one in the collection so far, other than "The Call of Cthulhu."

      Delete
    16. "The Salem Horror" by Henry Kuttner (1937):

      A novelist, looking for a place to hole up while working on his next book, rents a house famed to have once been owned by a witch. Guys...bad idea.

      His bacon will eventually be saved by an occultist who has read the Necronomicon and knows shit.

      The story isn't particularly good, and seems to be inspired by "The Dreams in the Witch-House," though to no great effect.

      Delete
    17. "The Terror from the Depths" by Fritz Leiber (1976):

      Leiber's is one of those names I've been hearing for my entire adult life as a reader. I've never read anything by him until now, though.

      This is a good story, and I spent a good portion of it thinking it was great. It lost me a bit when Leiber committed what apparently counts as a party foul at The Truth Inside The Lie: he included Lovecraft as a(n offscreen) character.

      Up until then, what we had on our hands was a tale that seemingly sought to place as many Lovecraft stories as possible within a single storytelling universe. Not a bad goal, that; and one which is relatively doable. But I mean, this guy really went for it: he went at least as far back as "The Beast in the Cave" and all the way up to "The Haunter of the Dark."

      Why, then, bother with having to include Lovecraft as a chronicler of these disparate events, one given to exaggeration and flights of fancy? Why, further, place that assertion within a story that includes flights of fancy as wild as those the real Lovecraft included in his own fiction? It's a mixed message, and it's one that simply doesn't work for me.

      If I can put that to the side, though, there are a lot of pleasures to be had from reading this one. And the inclusion of "Lovecraft" is perhaps worthwhile if only for the effect of this telegraph, received by one of the story's other characters:

      LOVECRAFT IS DEAD STOP THE WHIPPOORWILLS DID NOT SING STOP TAKE COURAGE STOP DANFORTH

      This may chill and delight fans of "The Dunwich Horror." It certainly did me.

      Delete
    18. "Rising with Surtsey" by Brian Lumley (1971):

      A pair of sibling novelists is torn asunder when one of them becomes possessed by a sorcerer, or a shoggoth, or some damned thing like that.

      Lumley avoids the trap of placing Lovecraft into the world of his own fiction, and adds -- at least I assume he's created them -- an admirable list of evil-tome titles to stand alongside the Necronomicon et al.

      Not a bad story, but it lost me a bit toward the end when bad dialogue took over.

      Delete
    19. "Cold Print" by Ramsey Campbell (1969):

      A fellow goes looking for more books like one he's read recently -- "Adam and Evan," it was called -- and ends up in what is very much the wrong bookstore.

      Not sure how I felt about this one. The protagonist is a rather icky fellow, and I'm not sure if that homophobia at work or a more eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

      ...

      You can thank one of my cats for that string of "e"s, which is kind of creepy-looking in a not-un-Lovecraftian manner. So I'm leaving it in.

      Anyways, it's hard for me to tell if this story is homophobic or if the story is instead simply anti-this-guy. I lean toward the latter, in which case, fair game. And even if it isn't, I suppose a bit of homophobia isn't out of bounds for a Lovecraft pastiche.

      This isn't a pastiche, exactly; it's kind of doing its own thing. I've not read anything by Campbell, so I don't know whether it's a good example, a poor one, or an indifferent one.

      Sorry to be so non-committal, but that's how it is sometimes.

      Delete
    20. "The Return of the Lloigor" by Colin Wilson (1969):

      Guy finds a Necronomicon, blah blah blah...

      That was by my knee-jerk reaction, at least, but in fact this is a much more ambitious story than that, and it deserves not to be simply dismissed in the manner I was prepared to use.

      It's about a guy who begins working toward translating the Voynich manuscript (a real thing, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript) and in the process of doing so discovers it to be the Necronomicon. That tome, of course, is an unreal thing.

      Let's talk about that for a second. It's not difficult to find sources wherein people speculate -- or outright claim -- that the Necronomicon is, in fact, a REAL book, one which Lovecraft did not invent but merely referenced. So enamored of this idea are some folks that there are numerous "actual" editions of the book (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necronomicon#Hoaxes_and_alleged_translations). As time goes by, it's going to be more and more important for people to realize that Lovecraft DID invent the thing, and that any version of it which has ever been published has been a descendant of his ideas.

      Thing is...well, I know -- probably from hearing him say it in a podcast -- that no less a personage than Alan Moore would feel that it didn't really matter that Lovecraft invented it, that once it became a real thing, it was/is just that: a REAL thing.

      Wilson's story is consciously playing with some of these ideas, and Wilson has his protagonist do some research to discover that in fact, Lovecraft HAD NOT invented the Necronomicon, but had -- possibly in league with Arthur Machen -- discovered its existence and then written about it. Wilson has his protagonist think at one point about how the only alternative would be that the Necronomicon existed merely as a sort of literary conspiracy/hoax perpetuated by multiple writers, which is obviously a ludicrous idea.

      Except clearly it isn't, and Wilson knows it isn't, but is having fun with the idea.

      If that intrigues you, this is probably the story for you. If it annoys you, run far, far away. Wilson -- who came to fame by way of a non-fiction book titled "The Outside," by the way (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Outsider_(Colin_Wilson) ) -- also ropes in all sorts of other ideas, and all in all, this is a fascinating and rewarding piece of work.

      Delete
    21. "My Boat" by Joanna Russ (1976):

      Never read any Joanna Russ, nope, sure haven't. Seems like I might be missing out; this story is very good indeed.

      One review of it that I found online was considerably less impressed, and accused Russ of trafficking in "magical Negro" stereotypes. I'll let everyone be her own judge as regards that; it didn't bother me, but being as I'm a white dude, maybe it wouldn't.

      In any case, this is the story of two high school white fellas who become friends with an unprepossessing black girl in a newly-integrated school. It will turn out that she is perhaps more than she seems to be, and if you're wondering why this story is in a Lovecraftian anthology, know ye that it is due to the titular boat bearing more than a bit in common with Lovecraft's "The White Ship."

      So yeah, it's a dream-cycle story moreso than a Cthulhu mythos story. Fine by me!

      Another reviewer pointed out that the story seems in some ways to be a forerunner of Stephen King's "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut." I can see it; there's nothing specifically tied to Russ's story in King's, but they do seem to have sipped from the same well.

      Delete
    22. "Sticks" by Karl Edward Wagner (1974):

      A pulp-magazine illustrator of weird tales stumbles across a rustic site that contains a large number of unsettling lattices made of sticks and twigs. Also, a zombie. He escapes, but that's not quite the end of the affair.

      One of the best stories in the anthology.

      Wagner's Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Edward_Wagner) is well worth a visit.

      Delete
    23. "The Freshman" by Philip José Farmer (1979):

      A sixty-year-old man is an incoming freshman at Miskatonic University, and is trying to figure out whether to pledge one of the frats.

      This odd and (for my money) unsuccessful story feels as if it's a fragment from some longer work. It's not awful, but it did nothing much for me.

      Delete
    24. "This odd and (for my money) unsuccessful story"

      Man, Philip José Farmer really excels in that type of story! I keep trying with that guy, but so far, nada.

      Delete
    25. I think I may have read another story or two by him at some point; if so I cannot remember what/where/when, but I do know that I've long had a specific disinterest in reading his work. I can't imagine that came from nowhere.

      So yeah, I hear ya for sure.

      Delete
    26. "Jerusalem's Lot" by Stephen King (1978):

      I would love to know how I'd respond to this story if I'd never read it before and was only encountering it in the pages of this book, taking it onboard as a piece of Lovecraftian weird fiction.

      I think -- THINK, mind you -- that I'd still be very enthusiastic. It scratches a lot of the itches one has if one is in a Lovecraftian mood, and it does so without being incredibly obvious about it. The word "Lovecraft" is mentioned nary once; the word "Necronomicon" is similarly absent. Instead, King's focus is on "De Vermis Mysteriis," which arguably makes this story a Bloch homage as well as a Lovecraft pastiche. there are a lot of fun evocations of Lovecraft's work, as well as weird-fiction tales by other writers (including a few stories also included in this very anthology). King handles these exceptionally well; they are never overbearing, even when a dude is hollering about "Yogsoggoth" at the top of his lungs.

      He even invents his own tome of ancient evil: de Goudge's sinister "Demon Dwellings."

      It's one of the best stories in this anthology, and while I'd say it is definitely bested by "The Call of Cthulhu" and probably bested by Bloch's "Notebook found in a Deserted House," that's pretty damn good company to be in. You run a footrace with those two and take bronze, you feel GREAT about how you did.

      There's plenty to say about "Jerusalem's Lot" from a King-centric viewpoint, but I will mostly deefer that to a distant-future date when I devote an entire post to the story. For now, though, I'll mention something I'd never noticed before: the town referenced in this story's title cannot be the same as the town in the novel "Salem's Lot." Why?

      Chapelwaite, the home of the story's protagonist, overlooks the ocean. Salem's Lot, as depicted in the novel, is nowhere near a coast -- and this map on King's website (http://stephenking.com/images/map_of_maine.jpg) confirms that.

      Is this merely a mistake of some sort, or should we consider it differently in light of King's multiversal approach to storytelling?

      A topic for another day.

      Delete
    27. "Discovery of the Ghooric Zone" by Richard A. Lupoff (1977):

      I think I'd probably keep "Jerusalem's Lot" at #3 in this collection after reading "Discovery of the Ghooric Zone," but Lupoff's story is nipping at its heels. Great stuff, hugely ambitious; a sci-fi story that tells of an expedition from Pluto to the recently-discovered tenth planet in our solar system, a red giant twice as massive as Jupiter that one of the expedition's inhabitants can't help but refer to as Yuggoth.

      Simultaneously, the story tells about three hundred years' worth of human history in reverse.

      I'd be a liar if I said I understood it all on a single read, but that's a feature for me, not a bug; I enjoyed it enough to be challenged by it, not put off. It reminded me a bit of the out-there writings of Cordwainer Smith, a sci-fi writer whose work I need to revisit one of these days.

      Based on this, Lupoff seems like somebody I ought to check out more of, too.

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