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The Dunwich Horror

The Dunwich Horror – 1970
A few years ago in Dunwich a half-witted girl bore illegitimate twins. One of them was almost human!
Daniel Haller

H.P. Lovecraft (story)
Curtis Hanson (as Curtis Lee Hanson) &
Henry Rosenbaum &
Ronald Silkosky

Samuel Z. Arkoff executive producer
Jack Bohrer producer
Roger Corman producer
James H. Nicholson executive producer

Sandra Dee – Nancy Wagner
Dean Stockwell – Wilbur Whateley
Ed Begley – Dr. Henry Armitage
Lloyd Bochner – Dr. Cory
Sam Jaffe – Old Whateley
Joanne Moore Jordan – Lavinia Whateley (as Joanna Moore Jordan)
Donna Baccala – Elizabeth Hamilton
Talia Shire – Nurse Cora (as Talia Coppola)
Michael Fox – Dr. Raskin (as Mike Fox)
Jason Wingreen – Sheriff Harrison
Barboura Morris – Mrs. Cole
Beach Dickerson – Mr. Cole
Michael Haynes – Guard
Toby Russ – Librarian
Jack Pierce – Reeger
F.A. Nichols – Mr. Fuller, newspaper publisher

Review by Sven Soetemans

Cheapness kills this one. Too bad, because ‘The Dunwich Horror’ could have been a modest classic.,

Ah, the Necronomicon…an alternate evil dimension …the virgin-sacrifice! Maybe I’m a bit biased but when a horror film features these elements, I already think it’s semi-successful. I liked ‘The Dunwich Horror’ and I really wish I could call it a lovely American equivalent for the delightfully grim Hammer movies made around that time, but it just isn’t good enough for that. Samuel Z. Arkoff and Roger Corman produced so many other useless horror films but they should have a put a little more effort in this one.

It’s based on a short story by H.P Lovecraft so you can count on the fact that the basic premise of this film is terrific occult matter, handling about a quiet little town terrorized by the Whateley-family who’re morbid worshipers of an alternate dimension that they want to bring back. It’s the further elaboration of the screenplay and the pathetic effects that bring down this film. More than half of the film is under-exposed and, every time something horrific is about to happen, the TV-screen changes into a blurry composition of bright colors. Very annoying! The second half is such a mess and very unsatisfying for horror and/or Lovecraft fans.

For what it’s worth, I’d still recommend ‘The Dunwich Horror’ to fans of atmospheric, merely story-driven occult stories, due to the suspenseful first half and macabre undertones (like the deformed twin-brother hidden in the attic). The production also has decent performances by a noble star-cast, including Ed Begley (he died the same year it was released), Dean Stockwell and cult-nymph Sandra Dee. Keep an eye open for Talia Shire (Rocky, The Godfather) in one of her first film roles.

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

Review by Wayne Malin

Psychedelic horror,
Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee in her last movie role) is a librarian at the Miskatonic Univ where the only copy of the Necronomicon (an evil book) is kept. Sinister Wilbur Whatley (a young Dean Stockwell in a hideous mustache and hair do) uses her to get access to the book. He then invites her to his house in Arkham. He gets her there and drugs her to make her stay…he has plans for her! Also there’s someTHING in the attic banging at the locked door. Two of Nancy’s friends come to get her and all hell breaks loose!

First off, this is NOT a faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s story (I should know–I just read it a few weeks ago). Some scenes are taken from it but the script is very different from the source. That said it’s not a bad film. It’s elaborately done (beautiful settings, eerie sounds and rich deep color) and is mildly engrossing.

Unfortunately it’s far from perfect. The script is OK but there are far too many plot holes (for instance, Dee tells Stockwell she can’t stay the weekend…in the very next scene she’s saying she is!). Also the acting is really bad by the two leads–Dee seems uneasy and unsure of how to play her part; Stockwell (who is a great actor) is, surprisingly, terrible! He acts like he’s stoned half the time (maybe he was) and is just horrible.

There are scenes of a monster stalking about (hey, it’s an AIP film!) and attacking which are very psychedelic (lots of flashing lights, negative film, different colors, loud sounds) and quite effective. Look for Talia Coppola (later Shire) as one of the victims. However, there’s no graphic gore or blood. Also, a real cool ending. Also, there’s an odd somewhat homophobic line in this–a friend of Dee comments on her staying with Stockwell–“If he were straight, I wouldn’t be worried.” ??????? Is that supposed to be funny? It’s pretty stupid and offensive today.

All in all, an OK film. It’s been reissued in VHS and DVD in a beautiful new print with great color and sound. Try to see it that way–it really helps the film.

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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