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Dean Stockwell (sporting a 'fro and looking like a sinister disco king)
visits Miskatonic University in hopes of "borrowing" the original
Necronomicon. It seems that Dean is the grandson of a powerful wizard,
and the illegitimate son of a woman who is finishing her days in the
padded room of an insane asylum. Sandra Dee and her huge helmet of
blond hair accompany Dean back to his isolated farmhouse where she is
quickly drugged, talking about sex, having orgasms on altars and
dreaming about strange beings (who rather resemble Manson Family
members) who chase her along the misty sea cliffs. Suspicious friends
arrive to help the stoned Miss Dee, who has no desire to be rescued
from her creepy new boyfriend or his awful perm. But the well meaning
friends learn some shocking truths about Dean anyway: he has a twin
brother, and if looks are anything to go by, then their Daddy was a
mutant sushi dinner.
There's some pretty decent creepy moments to be found in this film. The mood is nice and eerie, the atmosphere as thick and creepy as the fog that lies thick along the coastline beside Dean's house. We don't get to see much of the Twin Brother, but the POV shots are nice, done in blood red negatives. Dean Stockwell delivers a truly icky performance as the not-quite-human Wilbur who succeeds in seducing virginal Sandy, whose Good Girl image goes bye-bye here pretty quickly. The ending is a tad rushed and somewhat silly, but everything leading up to it is nice and tense, with minimal gore and some haunting sound effects. I give it a fat 8 on a scale of 10.
Sandra Dee (the original GIDGET to you beach bunny fans) is Nancy
Wagner, a virginal blonde student at Miskatonic University who meets
Wilbur (Dean Stockwell), the grandson of a warlock who was lynched
Wilbur shows interest in the Necronomicon and in Nancy, because he needs both to open a gateway for demons called "The Old Ones" to enter our world. He invites her back to his secluded home in Dunwich, where he keeps her drugged, plots to sacrifice her on a seaside altar and fights with his senile, ranting grandfather (Sam Jaffe). A strange-looking, barely-seen, multi-headed flying monster that sees things in negative (and looks kind of like GHIDRAH!), is kept locked in the attic, but escapes for the silly finale.
It's amusing to see the once-wholesome Sandra Dee saying sex is "great" and simulating orgasm while being groped on an altar, but she should also get credit for delivering a decent performance. Ditto Ed Begley in his last role as a heroic professor. Stockwell is so soft-spoken and weird it's hard to gouge just how good (or bad) his performance really is.
Compared to most recent H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, this isn't half bad and it all looks very cool and colorful. Roger Corman was the executive producer. Director Haller also made DIE, MONSTER, DIE, which was based on Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space."
Interesting film about a young college coed who becomes involved with a young man who has connections that extend well into the underworld and who only needs the right book to unleash them. Sandra Dee in a surprisingly sexy role as the young student and Les Baxter's very nice soundtrack just about save an effort where the actual film doesn't do justice to its title. Nonetheless the production design creates creepy atmosphere especially in the seaside alter where Dee is nearly undressed while Stockwell prepares her for the arrival of Satan himself. And there is a certain amount of imagination involved in the film that combines a nice mixture of classic horror themes with hip sensibilities.
I liked this one, but it was not without its faults. One of these is clearly the monster. It does not look to good, but on the bright side they try to cover up its appearance with weird flashing lights and they usually only show it by showing its point of view. Another problem is I found myself pulling for Wilbur to succeed in his rituals. I am sure that is not the makers of this movies intent. This one has a man wanting to see a book at a library that contains many rituals for bringing those called the "old ones" to the earth. He can't convince the man in charge of the book to loan it to him, but he does get a gal to drive him home and stay the weekend. His house is rather drab, but she seems okay with it. She soon becomes part of his plans to bring the "old ones" to earth. Meanwhile, her friend and the guy with the book investigate the guy. Overall I liked it, but I wasn't thrilled with the ending as it did not seem right to me. The old guy was about three or four steps behind in everything to me, so it didn't seem right that it should end that way. Some nudity in this one, but not all that much. Could have used a bit of gore too, but the story is interesting enough to keep my attention anyway. Based on a Lovecraft story that probably explains the monster. He always describes such horrors in his story that they are nearly impossible to duplicate by building them or using computer graphics.
A kind of disappointing foray into the realm of Lovecraft. Dee looks like
she's lost in a library, not in a twisted necromantic nightmare. Stockwell
is fun at times and he's a good actor but Haller lets him play too broad to
be convincing. the legendary "topless Sandra Dee" scene lasts all of 2
seconds, and I thought it looked like it could just as easily have been
anybody's (well, almost anybody's, but possibly not even Sandra Dee's!),
because the camera dollied behind Dee's head and got dark on her just before
showing it, so a switch and edit could easily have been accomplished. That
means, if it IS a true totless shot, the cameraman and Haller should be
ashamed for making it look fake.
Surely, Roger Corman should have exercised a stronger hand over this one (or somebody should have). Still, it's fun and kind of different. Will not particularly please H.P. Lovecraft fans.
"The Dunwich Horror" of 1970 may not be great Horror, but it is
nonetheless a worthwhile little film that has many qualities. The film
is based on the writings of the almighty H.P. Lovecraft, which may be
one of the reasons why many fellow Horror lovers find it to be
disappointing. Many films based on Lovecraft writings are downright
brilliant all-time Horror-greats, above all Roger Corman's "Haunted
Palace" (1963) with Vincent Price (which was marketed as a
Poe-adaptation), Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" (1981) and Stuart Gordon's
"Re-Animator" (1985), just to name three absolute masterpieces inspired
by this great writer's work. "The Dunwitch Horror", of course, comes
nowhere near the brilliance of films like those just mentioned, it is
not even comparable to films like these, and it is certainly no
classic, but while the film has its flaws, it is still an entertaining
film that has its qualities.
I will not go into detail regarding the plot, but, as usual for Lovecraft adapt ions, the Necronomicon, and the 'Old Ones' play an important role. The quality of the performances differs. Sandra Dee, is sexy and nice to look at in the female lead, and she even reveals some of her charms, but her performance is quite awful. Dean Stockwell (who sports one of the most fake-looking mustaches in motion picture history) arguably delivers the best performance in the film, and the cast furthermore includes Sam Jaffe and the weird-looking Ed Begley ("12 Angry Men", "Hang 'Em High") in one of his last roles. Talia Shire also has a small role. The visual style is very much a matter of personal taste. The film has a nice general atmosphere and cool settings. The occasional flashy colors, in which the whole screen turns at some points, don't really fit in and annoy at times. The films greatest aspect is the excellent score by Les Baxter, which contributes a lot to the atmosphere. The film has a brilliant animated opening credit sequence, which is another reason to give it a try. All things considered, "The Dunwich Horror" is certainly no great film, but even though it is quite cheesy and never really suspenseful it is yet a highly entertaining little film that I recommend to fans of occult fun.
If I had watched this with a bunch of friends, we would have laughed and
thought it was awful. But when watched alone at night, without a critical
attitude, it is creepy and effective as only an old, cheap horror movie
be. Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee give low key, almost distracted
performances that, intentionally or not, contribute to the eerie tone, and
presentation of Dean Stockwell's unearthly twin was very atmospheric and
evocative - a good example of how to play on the viewers' imagination (a
lost art in most of today's horror movies). The movie has a titillating
sexuality (which seems very 1970 but quite un-Lovecraftian but it has been
long time since I've read his stuff) with a few quick almost subliminal
Part of my enjoyment of the film was nostalgia - it reminded me of tv shows and movies I enjoyed as a kid in the early 70s. Dunwich Horror is very similar in style to the Night Gallery tv series (which was rarely successful, but I still enjoy watching it if I get a chance).
So - not a great movie, but good if you like this sort of thing and are in the right frame of mind. The DVD looked pretty good, especially the color.
Another movie featuring Gothic horror that collides with late 1960's
psychedelic/Hippie clothing, fashions, design, etc. It makes for a
potent combination that is somewhat silly but great fun to look at.
The rumor is that Peter Fonda was supposed to play the lead but Dean Stockwell stepped in at the last minute. It would have sure been a different movie with old Pete. Stockwell gives the role a creepy yet seductive intensity. Could Fonda have done the same? Not so sure about that. I tend to think that Peter Fonda would have been a little too "slick" for this role, that is, too much on the side of the sleazy seducer and too little on the side of the menacing necromancer. But, who knows, that's just my silly idle speculation, as Peter never did the role.
This would make a great double feature with "Simon: King of The Witches," also currently available on DVD. Filmed shortly after this film, also has a warlock, and a lot of trippy psychedelic visual effects. Also great fun to look at and quite entertaining performance in the lead role by Andrew Prine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Dunwich Horror starts as a strange fellow named Wilbur Whateley
(Dean Stockwell) ask's college professor Dr. Henry Armatige (Ed Begley)
whether he can borrow the magical book of the Necronomicon, Armitage
refuses. Whateley's sinister attention then turns to college student
Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) who offer's Whateley a lift home to the small
town of Dunwich after it turns out he missed the last bus, it turns out
to be a less than inspired decision as Whateley 'fixes' her car so she
can't go anywhere & convinces her to stay for the weekend. Dr. Armitage
& Nancy's friend Elizabeth (Donna Baccala) become worried when she
doesn't return & set out to look for her, Elizabeth has the unfortunate
luck to find the 'thing' which lurks in the attic in Whateley's house
while after some investigation Armitage discovers that Whateley is in
fact trying to resurrect an ancient race of evil beings from another
dimension & he plans to use Nancy as the virgin sacrifice...
Directed by Daniel Haller The Dunwich Horror is far from the best film out there but if your in the right mood & have a certain aptitude for this sort of over-the-top badly dated horror film from the 70's then you might just like it. The script by Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum & Roland Silkosky was based on the short 27 page story by H.P. Lovecraft & you can tell because this film is pretty stretched out, to be fair not that much actually happens apart from Whateley kidnapping Nancy & her friends come looking for her before the sinister truth is revealed which is pretty obvious to begin with. Hving said that The Dunwich Horror is full of bizarre scenes which make it watchable on a 'what the hell?' sort of level. There's Whateley's weird Grandfather who carries what resembles a large lollipop around with him, the scenes when the thing from the attic attacks & the whole screen flashes red & everyone just sort of falls over or the bits in the insane asylum which are funny & then there's the bit when Nancy is enquiring about her friend Elizabeth whose car is outside & who has met the thing from the attic but within the space of a half a scene Nancy suddenly loses all interest in her so-called best friend who is missing. It doesn't have a great pace to it, it's not particularly exciting, it takes itself far too seriously & it lacks exploitation elements but I thought it was an entertaining laugh all the same.
Director Haller adds much unintentional hilarity to the proceedings, the way people talk, behave, the set-ups, the story & the film is terribly dated which adds a certain charm to it. The opening credits are amazing & worth watching on their own, I doubt there's many like them around. There's nothing one would describe as being scary & there's no blood or gore either.
Technically The Dunwich Horror is OK, it looks like a 70's detective show with some very garish colours & embarrassing fashions. I have to say though that I really rather liked the music. The acting is either terrible if it was unintentional but an absolute brilliant masterstroke if it was deliberate.
The Dunwich Horror is a entertaining way to pass 90 odd minutes for all the wrong reasons, for those who like their films pretty out there. Remade as Dunwich (2006).
The writings of the great H.P. Lovecraft have lead to some truly great
films, but unfortunately his stories aren't always enough to carry a
film through, and despite the fact that this film features all the
elements of a successful Lovecraft adaptation - The Dunwich Horror is a
sadly lacklustre movie. It has to be said that the film does look very
nice - for a low rent early seventies production, the cinematography is
surprisingly crisp and the locations look good - but this isn't matched
by the story, which is always intriguing but director Daniel Haller
lets the suspense build and build and then makes the cardinal blunder
of not giving his audience a worthwhile payoff at the end. The plot
revolves around one of Lovecraft's most famous creations - the
Necronomicon, a book which can supposedly summon alien Gods to Earth.
Wilbur Whateley wants this book so that he can complete some ancient
rite, and in order to do so he needs the services of Nancy Wagner - a
young University student that offered him a lift home when he
unfortunately missed his bus.
The film is packed with provocative imagery (for the time), and includes a nude scene for Sandra Dee and a whole host of trippy psychedelic scenes. However, while he was doing all this stuff, the director forgot that he was actually filming a horror film - and because of that, there's barely any horror on display at all and the closest we really get to anything horrifying is a vibrating door with a bolt on it. Naturally, it's not long before all this starts to get more than a little bit boring as you can only watch a bunch of meaningless characters swan around for so long. However, the way that the director builds suspense is sometimes intriguing, and I have to admit that I did want to know what was going on - the fact that the ending is so pithy pretty much cancels that out, however. There is a good sequence mid-way through in which we find about the birth of the main character and some other scenes are interesting (like the fight between our warlock and a library security guard...), but overall there really isn't much to recommend this film for and I don't doubt that my fellow Lovecraft aficionados will be disappointed.
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