The Dunwich Horror (film)

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The Dunwich Horror
Dunwich Horror.jpg
Film Poster
Directed by Daniel Haller
Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff
James H. Nicholson
executive
Roger Corman
Screenplay by Curtis Hanson &
Henry Rosenbaum
Ronald Silkosky
Based on The Dunwich Horror 
by H.P. Lovecraft
Starring Sandra Dee
Dean Stockwell
Ed Begley
Talia Shire
Music by Les Baxter
Cinematography Richard C. Glouner
Edited by Christopher Holmes
Production
company
American International Pictures
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release dates
January 14, 1970 (USA)
Running time
90 min.
Country  United States
Language English
Box office $1,043,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Dunwich Horror is a 1970 B-movie from American International Pictures directed by Daniel Haller and produced by Roger Corman. The film was based on the short story of the same name by H.P. Lovecraft with a script co-written by future Academy Award winning director Curtis Hanson.

This was the last film of actor Ed Begley. The leading role was offered to Peter Fonda, but he turned it down. Instead, Dean Stockwell played the role of Wilbur Whateley. The film was shot in Mendocino, California.

Plot[edit]

The film begins with the groaning of a woman. The camera slowly pans to show two elderly women (who look like twins) and an elderly man who are watching a woman writhe and moan with the pain of childbirth on a bed in an old-fashioned looking bedroom. She is then led out of the room by the elderly man, who is later revealed as the elder Whateley.

The film continues, after the opening credits, at the fictional Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, where Dr. 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.

Whateley's perusal of the book is cut short by Armitage, who has researched Wilbur's family's sordid past. His warnings about the Whateleys go unheeded by Nancy, who decides to give Wilbur a ride back to Dunwich after he misses his bus, perhaps purposely. At a gas station on the outskirts of town, Nancy first encounters the ill-esteem in which the locals hold Wilbur.

Once back at the Whateley house, she meets Old Whateley (Jaffe), Wilbur's grandfather. Her car is then disabled and she is drugged by the younger Whateley. She decides under the influence of hypnosis and drugs to spend the weekend, and does not change her mind when Armitage and her classmate arrive from Arkham the next morning. The duo does not abandon Nancy, however. They investigate further and discover that Wilbur's mother, Lavinia (Joanna Moore Jordan) is still alive and in an asylum. The town doctor, Cory (Bochner) informs Armitage that Lavinia delivered twins when Wilbur was born, but one was stillborn, though he was not there for the delivery and never saw the body. The childbirth was very traumatic and Lavinia "lost her mind" during it, and nearly died.

In the meantime, on the advice of the locals, Nancy's classmate enters the Whateley house looking for Nancy. She opens a locked door, and releases a creature (which we are led to believe is Wilbur's monstrous twin) that kills her and escapes. Upon Wilbur and Nancy's return, Old Whateley confronts them about the presence of the missing girl's car, and in the ensuing argument, falls down the stairs and dies. Wilbur takes him to the local cemetery for a decidedly non-Christian burial, but the local townsfolk vociferously stop him.

As the story draws to a close, a rapid unfolding of events occurs. Wilbur's twin runs amok in Dunwich, killing several people. Lavinia dies in the asylum, looking much older than her 45 years. The Whateley estate burns down in a conflagration that may have to do with a pagan ritual. At the top of a coastal cliff, Wilbur prepares Nancy for sacrifice to bring back what he calls "The Old Ones." He is struck by lightning in the ritual and falls in a ball of fire into the sea.

In the closing scene, the physically unharmed Nancy is escorted off the sacrificial altar by Armitage and Cory, who calm her by stating that the Whateley line has ended. Just before the credits, it is revealed that Nancy is pregnant, presumably with Wilbur's ill-conceived child.

Main cast[edit]

Actor Role
Dean Stockwell Wilbur Whateley
Sandra Dee Nancy Wagner
Ed Begley Dr. Henry Armitage
Talia Shire Nurse Cora
Sam Jaffe Old Whateley
Lloyd Bochner Dr. Cory

Production[edit]

American International Pictures originally announced filming the novel in 1963.[2]

Sandra Dee was paid $65,000 plus 5% of the profits.[3]

Release[edit]

Reception[edit]

Legacy[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971 p 11
  2. ^ Gary A Smith, American International Pictures: The Golden Years, Bear Manor 2013 p 208
  3. ^ Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p268

External links[edit]