Charles Dexter Ward's wife enlists the help of a private detective to find out what her husband is up to in a remote cabin owned by his family for centuries. The husband is a chemical engineer, and the smells from his experiments (and the delivery of what appear to be human remains at all hours) are beginning to arouse the attention of neighbors and local law enforcement officials. When the detective and wife find a diary of the husband's ancestor from 1771, and reports of gruesome murders in the area begin to surface, they begin to suspect that some very unnatural experiments are being conducted in the old house. Based on an H.P. Lovecraft story.Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
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(At about 57:50) When the diary is being read during a flashback, the date of "Friday October 13, 1771" is specified. October 13, 1771 was a Sunday. See more »
Strong as my hunger for knowledge may be, my hunger for food is so much stronger.
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Director Dan O'Bannon's original cut ran over two hours and was subsequently edited down by the film's producers. The recent Blu-ray collector's edition of the film released in Germany by OFDb Filmworks contains a work print cut that runs 2 hours and 17 minutes. Additional scenes include a longer introduction of John March and Lonnie Peck, extended and new dream sequences, and a romantic encounter between March and Claire Ward. See more »
"I should strip thy flesh from thy bones like a suckling pig."
Modern day Rhode Island is the setting for this adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft yarn "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". John Terry ("Full Metal Jacket") stars as private eye John March, hired by comely young Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett, 'Friends') to find out what her husband Charles (Chris Sarandon, "Fright Night" and "Child's Play") is up to. Not that long ago, Charles had come into the possessions of an ancestor, and been awfully intrigued by what he found. He sets up a laboratory in a remote locale so he can work on a series of messy (and I do mean MESSY) experiments. Ones that involve a lot of blood and fresh meat.
One of only two feature length directorial efforts for the late screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (the other being, of course, "The Return of the Living Dead"), this picture does have some ominous atmosphere, a twisty story (there are flashbacks within flashbacks), a wonderful music score by Richard Band, and eye popping monster effects by Todd Masters and his company. The acting is variable. Terry is just okay, but he at least comes off better than the bland Sibbett. Sarandon, unsurprisingly, acts rings around them both, and gets to have some fun when he starts behaving even more strangely than before, and speaks using antiquated language. Laurie Briscoe is fine eye candy as March's miniskirt wearing secretary, and the ever amusing Robert Romanus ("Fast Times at Ridgemont High") is amiable as March's leg man Lonnie Peck.
O'Bannon proves himself to be at home in this sort of horror fare. Granted, the production company would tamper with it after he was done, apparently removing the element of humour that one might expect from the man who made RotLd. It's an entertaining story, that begins on a good note, but it's also a protracted one. One major "haunted house walk" set piece occurs a little past the one hour mark, and it could have used some tightening. The film does lead to a dazzling special effects-laden finale, and some horror fans are sure to be delighted by all the gore.
Not a great film, by any means, but reasonably compelling and worth comparing to the 1963 Roger Corman version, "The Haunted Palace".
Seven out of 10.
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