Monday, February 9, 2015

The Dunwich Horror

Rated R? The rating system must have been much more strict in 1970. Reeger (Jack Pierce), one of the townsmen hunting down the evil Wilbur Whately (played by Dean Stockwell) at the Devil's Hopyard, said the word "damn" when he fell and jammed his rifle and they showed Nancy's (Sandra Dee) naked hip as she writhed and moaned as though enjoying sex with a ghost. Those were the raciest scenes that I recall. Maybe the Satanic worship contributed to the R rating, however, the movie was made while Dark Shadows was broadcast in the afternoons. It must have been the sexual moaning and there was a brief dream scene of topless painted people including a small set of bouncing boobs.

I need to read the book of the same name by H. P. Lovecraft to know the real original story. It was a pretty good movie even with the awful 70s movie music and low-tech camera tricks. Nancy's dream sequence was shown with what looked like a piece of gauze taped over the camera lens. As Wilbur's ritual was seeing some success allowing evil to enter our dimension and prey on the innocent, the picture would turn to negative and flash either red, blue or green as the evil attacked and ravaged it's victims and their belongings. Love it. 

On the other hand,  Wilbur's  family homestead was a Gothic staple, a cool old mansion with mysterious rooms, especially the locked room at the top of the house where the evil lurked. The stone altar where Wilbur presented Nancy, the necessary virgin for the evil to impregnate, stood at the edge of the woods in a place called The Devil's Hopyard on a cliff above jagged rocks and crashing waves.

The fight scene in the university library between the guard and Wilbur when Wilbur broke in to steal the Necromonicon was an entertaining scuffle reminiscent of the Star Trek fights and other late 60s, early 70s TV fights. Stuntmen with cheap wigs scuffling and rolling around on the floor as strategic camera angles hid their faces from the camera. Pretty funny!

As Wilbur performed the ritual necessary to open the gate and usher the Old Ones back into our dimension to destroy mankind as described in the Neconomicon, I realized how much of the Evil Dead was based on Lovecraft's inventions. The evil awakened by reading the book aloud was portrayed in the Evil Dead the same was it was portrayed in The Dunwich Horror. The evil was more of a spirit rushing like wind through the woods, blowing through tall grass and shifting the flow of bodies of water as it raced with supernatural speed toward the people it longed to destroy.

I've never seen Dean Stockwell so young! My only knowledge of him was as the crusty middle-aged guy in Quantum Leap. But after one quick Google search I learned that he was a child actor who found success as an adult actor as well. Pretty extraordinary. I think that's the only movie I've seen starring Sandra Dee, as far as I can remember anyway. I may have seen her as Gidget on old TV movie reruns, but I always picture Sally Field in that role. Dee was absolutely adorable as was Stockwell, providing icing on the cake of a really good movie!

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