Sunday, September 30, 2007
THE DUNWICH HORROR is based on a story by horror legend H. P. Lovecraft . This 1970 curiosity stars Sandra Dee (A SUMMER PLACE), Dean Stockwell (BLUE VELVET), Ed Begley (SR., not JR.), great character actor Sam Jaffe, and Talia Shire (Coppola).
Following the trippy-iest animated opening titles I've seen in a long time (with a fantastic musical score by Les Baxter), we meet Professor Henry Armitage (Begley) and two librarians Nancy (Dee) and another one. We also learn about The Necronomicon (?!) - an ancient book filled with mystical secrets. As they return the valuable book to its display case in the library, a young man named Wilbur Whateley (Stockwell) asks to see the book and Nancy readily agrees to let him —even though she was told how rare and priceless the book is! Armitage reappears and is annoyed at everyone, declaring the book needs to be put back in it's case. Wilbur states that there had once been another copy of the book belonging to his his great-grandfather, who had been hung and burned for practicing witchcraft. After this revelation, Armitage takes a sudden interest in the young Wilbur. Then they all go out for dinner. Bennigan's?
Nancy offers to drive Wilbur home after dinner. Once at the beautiful, yet spooky house, Nancy decides to snoop around (while Wilbur makes sure her car doesn't start). She knocks over some modern glass sculpture...then he slips her a mickey and Nancy falls into a deep sleep, dreaming that she's being attacked by some sort of tribe. This is the first of many ROSEMARY'S BABY - inspired nightmare sequences.
Things continue to get creepier as we meet Wilbur's cranky Grandpa (Jaffe). But there's still some fun ahead when a snobby Christian couple gets devoured by THE DUNWICH HORROR and when a security guard battles Wilbur in a BATMAN-like POW-fest that ends with someone impaling themselves. Oh yeah, and Nancy is offered up as a sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. The monster itself, doesn't appear til the very end, reminding me very much of SIGMUND (from...& THE SEA MONSTERS fame).
Sandra Dee once again plays the innocent girl who falls for the bad boy. Though Sandy gets to show a little flesh in the climax of the film this time. Dean Stockwell sports a very bad mustache and at times is mistaken by me for Mike Brady. Begley Sr. looks too much like a cross between Garry Marshall and Commissioner Gordon to be taken seriously, especially when he uses his red bat-phone! (Honestly - he has a red phone!) Sam Jaffe bears an odd resemblance to Whitman Mayo, who played Grady on SANFORD & SON and its various spinoffs. And yes Lloyd Bochner from DYNASTY and IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME (see review from a few days ago) has a small role.
Overall, I found DUNWICH to be a colorful treat for the eyes and ears. It may move a bit slow for today's horror crowds, but for it's style alone I give this baby a 9 out of 10 "Huhs?"