The Dunwich Horror is a 1970 American horror supernatural film about an intense young man obsessed with summoning “The Old Ones”.
Directed by Daniel Haller (director of Die, Monster, Die! and Roger Corman’s former art director). Produced by American International Pictures.
The film was based on the short story of the same name by H.P. Lovecraft with a script co-written by future director Curtis Hanson (Sweet Kill; The Hand That Rocks the Cradle).
A woman writhes and moans with the pain of childbirth. She is then led out of the room by the elderly man…
At the Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, Doctor Henry Armitage (Begley) has just finished a lecture on the local history and the very rare and priceless Necronomicon. He gives the book to his student Nancy Wagner (Dee) to return to the library. She is followed by a stranger, who later introduces himself as Wilbur Whateley (Stockwell). Whateley asks to see the book, and though it is closing time and the book is reputedly the only copy in existence, Nancy allows it under the influence of Whateley’s hypnotic gaze…
“There are gloriously campy moments (Stockwell speaking some ancient “language”, while holding his Ogam-stone rings up beside his head … Sandra Dee writhing almost naked on some Druidic altar as Stockwell places the sacred book in between her legs – to do his incantations – naked witchy hippie types running through fields in dream-esque sequences that are supposed to be horrifying yet end up looking just mildly amusing and vaguely erotic…” The Sheila Variations
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“If one is familiar with the monster movie form, it’s obvious how things will unfold from the first shot of that locked door rattling ominously on its hinges. It’s not a matter of whether the imprisoned Horror will break free and munch its way through Dunwich, but when. There’s a kind of elemental pleasure in watching this sort of scenario unfold, but The Dunwich Horror is too unfocused to thrive as a pure monster-in-the-dark tale.” Gateway Cinephile
“The Dunwich Horror is a weird enough tale to hold your interest despite some repetitious scenes with a tendency to drag. That it supplants the usual Satanic cult themes with the Lovecraft mythos is a definite boon.” Eccentic Cinema
“There are times when it threatens to out-batsh*t The Wicker Man, with crazy dream/hallucination sequences (some with what looks like a cheesecloth overlay, for the hell of it) and death scenes that look like something Argento would cook up on an acid trip. It’s also hilarious how often Stockwell poisons the love interest…” Horror Movie a Day
“A big silly mess of a film – in kind of a good way […] The best part of this film is the soundtrack. I actually listened to it many times before even watching the film. For lovers of the bizarre and macabre, this is a must-see. For lovers of good storytelling and effects, it is not.” Mondo Bizarro
“Daniel Haller’s directorial style is flat and lacking in any depth of character of subtlety. Everything takes place at a slow, plodding, nondescript pace. Indeed, with the addition of afro-headed, 1960s drug hallucinations, H.P. Lovecraft might have some difficulty recognising his story.” Moria
“The Dunwich Horror may be very obviously a product of the early seventies but for a movie made on a modest budget fast and cheap, it does a pretty respectful job of capturing the Lovecraft vibe. It might not play everything exactly by the book but it’s well-paced and incredibly atmospheric…” Rock! Shock! Pop!
“H.P. Lovecraft had such a pathological fear of women, the heroine’s fate is perhaps inevitable. His concept of an irrational universe often leaves his villains with the least fathomable motivations in horror. Okay, smart guy, you’ve unleashed unimaginable terror – now what? Art director turned auteur, Daniel Haller has no knack for pace or drawing strong performances…” The Spinning Image
“Despite good casting and fine photography, this is not a satisfying film. It is way behind its time and it can’t keep up with a screenplay that asks too much of its director, crew, and performers. And what a strange ending! At least, you can’t call this movie predictable.” Tales of Terror
“A vaguely interesting premise is only half carried to execution, but still made watchable by good performances from Dee and a twittery, creepy Stockwell.” The Terror Trap
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Cast and characters:
Sandra Dee … Nancy Wagner
Dean Stockwell … Wilbur Whateley
Ed Begley … Doctor Henry Armitage
Lloyd Bochner … Doctor Cory
Sam Jaffe … Old Whateley
Joanna Moore Jordan … Lavinia Whateley
Donna Baccala … Elizabeth Hamilton
Talia Shire … Nurse Cora
Michael Fox … Doctor Raskin
Jason Wingreen … Sheriff Harrison
Barboura Morris … Mrs Cole
Beach Dickerson … Mr Cole
Michael Haynes … Guard
Toby Russ … Librarian
Jack Pierce … Reeger
Robert Nevin … Man in Cemetery (uncredited)
F.A. Nichols … Mr Fuller (uncredited)
Mendocino, California (used for “Dunwich”)
Little River, California (cemetery and exterior of Whately house)
3709 University Avenue, Los Angeles, California (Seeley Wintersmith Mudd Memorial Hall of Philosophy, University of Southern California – opening scene)
Filming began on 8th April 1969.