Thursday, 26 March 2020

Stuart Gordon

Yesterday morning, I received the terrible news that Stuart Gordon, whose classic debut feature ‘Re-animator’ we were discussing on the blog just a few weeks ago, has passed away at the age of 72.

There is so much that could be said in the course of paying tribute, but to begin by reiterating something I wrote in those aforementioned ‘Re-animator’ posts, Gordon is one of very few directors in the genre/low budget realm of whom I can truthfully say that I have seen (nearly) all his films, and have enjoyed every single one of them.

I won’t run through the entire list here, but suffice to say, scanning his filmography is like reliving a parade of great memories – decades-worth of weekend movies nights and late night screenings with friends, each of them objectively classifiable as a blast.

Like many others I suspect, it was the Lovecraft connection which initially drew me to Gordon’s work, before I’d really developed a more general interest in lower budget horror movies. I can still remember my excitement at finding a VHS copy of ‘From Beyond’ in a charity shop at a point when that film was otherwise unavailable, and at paying what seemed at the time like a small fortune for a copy of ‘Dagon’ as soon as it was released in 2001-ish. As my movie fandom has grown in subsequent years though, gradually catching up on the rest of his output has been a real pleasure, and, as stated above, he’s never let me down.

Not all of Gordon’s films were masterpieces, but whether making personal passion projects which overcame budgetary constraints and producer interference to hit all the right notes, or work-for-hire assignments which turned out way better than they had any right to be, he had a Bava/Corman-like knack for making the absolute best of the circumstances he found himself working in, his craftsmanship, dedication and sincere love and respect for his pulp / genre subject matter shining through in every frame. Again and again through the late ‘80s and ‘90s, he managed to turn projects which I’m pretty sure would have been forgettable guff in the hands of most other directors into solidly crafted, entertaining and hugely likeable movies.

It’s instructive in this regard to compare the quality of the films Gordon made for Charles Band’s Empire and Full Moon Pictures to most of the other stuff they produced at around the same time, presumably on comparable budgets. I don’t want to rag too hard on the non-Gordon Empire/Full Moon films (there are certainly a few hidden gems in there), but by and large, there’s simply no comparison, to the extent that my standard refrain whenever I find myself watching a disappointing, schlocky American horror film has long been “I WISH STUART GORDON HAD DIRECTED THIS”.

Getting into specifics, I’ve always loved the way that Gordon managed to maintain a connection to the classic horror films of the ‘60s (and perhaps even the ‘30s?) in his work, particularly in terms of their painstaking production design, and of his direction of actors (which clearly draws greatly on his background in theatre, allowing performances to ‘go big’ without becoming campy or annoying), whilst at the same time avoiding the temptation to revert to mere nod-wink nostalgia, and always remembering to deliver tons of the assorted good stuff that contemporary fans of horror / sci-fi / action / whatever want to see.

Another thing which sets his horror films apart meanwhile is the sparks that fly as a result of the uneasy balance between humour and horror, lending them a unique and unpredictable tone that has often been imitated, but never quite equalled. Even in the most light-hearted of his films in the genre, there is always at least one scene which seems designed to push viewers way beyond their comfort zone, as if to remind us, “hey, you signed up to see a HORROR film, remember?”

More than anything else I’d imagine, it is these jarring moments of nastiness (from Herbert West tormenting the broken-backed cat in ‘Re-animator’ to the Zadok Allen character being skinned alive in ‘Dagon’, and many more besides) that must have prevented Gordon from pursuing the kind of mainstream acceptance that his obvious talent and flair for comedy and adventure material (not to mention his pivotal role in creating the ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ franchise) might otherwise have prepared him for.

Admittedly, Gordon’s short run of sci-fi films during the ‘90s did see him branching out somewhat in this direction (most notably in his major studio debut, the totally awesome Christopher Lambert vehicle ‘Fortress’ (1992)), but even here, he still had a tendency to knock us off balance with some fairly, uh, uncompromising content (think for instance of the moment in ‘Robot Jox’ (1990) when a stand full of innocent spectators gets crushed and we’re suddenly seeing ersatz news footage of weeping relatives searching through the rubble, or of the depredations of Charles Dance and his petrol-powered penis in ‘Space Truckers’ (1996)). Perhaps this tendency goes back to the confrontational / ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ type stuff he used to get up to in his early theatrical days, who knows..?

Which leads us neatly onto Gordon’s parallel theatrical career, which, although time and space have conspired to prevent me from witnessing any of it first hand, would no doubt be considered by many to be of equal (or possibly even greater) importance to his film work.

Beginning as a self-confessed hippie radical, Gordon founded the Screw theatre company whilst attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968, overseeing a production entitled ‘The Game Show’, which, according to Wikipedia, “..locked the audience in the theater and seemingly humiliated, beat and raped them (audience plants were used). Every performance ended with the audience rioting and stopping the show.”

This was soon followed up by “..a political version of Peter Pan that got him and his future wife arrested for obscenity”. Incorporating nudity, drug use and a psychedelic light show, this production was apparently inspired by an incident which saw Gordon tear-gassed by Chicago police during an anti-Vietnam protest.

After severing ties with the university, Gordon and his wife, actress Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, founded the Chicago Organic Theater Company, with whom they would continue to work until (I believe) Gordon was forced to resign from his position as Artistic Director as a result of controversy arising from the production of ‘Re-animator’ in 1985. In the intervening years however, the Organic Theater Company seems to have carved out an important niche for itself within the American theatrical landscape, not least through producing two early works by David Mamet (‘Sexual Perversity in Chicago’ and ‘Bleacher Bums’), both of which were directed by Gordon – a relationship which was revived in 2005 when Gordon directed the film version of Mamet’s play ‘Edmond’, starring William H. Macy.

In fact, the final decades of Gordon’s life seem to have seen him returning to his theatrical roots in a number of ways, cross-pollinating them with his subsequent horror career via his work on Jeffrey Combs’ one man Edgar Allan Poe show ‘Nevermore’, and the self-explanatory ‘Re-Animator: The Musical’ (either of which I’m sure would make for a great night out), whilst also directing a two-hander cannibal drama named ‘Taste’ and shifting the focus of his film work more toward similarly small scale / real world projects such as ‘King of the Ants’ (2003, based on the Charlie Higson novel) and ‘Stuck’ (2007).

(Somewhere amongst all this though, we should note, he also found time to direct his two episodes of the ‘Masters of Horror’ TV anthology - based respectively on Lovecraft’s ‘Dreams in the Witch House’ and Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’ - both of which are very good indeed, and come highly recommended if you’ve not seen them.)

But – I’m rambling here. Beyond all of the above, the main thing to remember as we look back over Gordon’s life and career is that he always came across in interviews as a really smart, humble, big-hearted and hugely likeable guy, and I’m sure that everyone around the world who knew him or knows his work is going to miss him terribly. R.I.P.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Random Paperbacks:
The Alley God
by Philip José Farmer

(Sphere, 1970)

More so perhaps than any other classic-era science fiction author, Philip José Farmer’s work seems to have inspired a wealth of extraordinary and unusual paperback cover art across the decades, with this strikingly horror-ish joint from Sphere providing a case in point. [Previous posts featuring mind-bending examples of artwork used on Farmer’s books can be found here, here and here.]

In fact, as a direct result of the hellzapoppin’ imagery publishers seem to have used to sell his wares, I actually own no less than six Farmer books, but until recently had never read a word of any of them. Indeed, having never knowingly gone out of my way to learn anything about him, the sum total of my knowledge comprised the following:

1. He annoyed Kurt Vonnegut by writing ‘Venus on the Half-Shell’, an unauthorised collection of ersatz Kilgore Trout stories, which, in Vonnegut’s view, got it all wrong and were basically a load of shite (I paraphrase, you understand).

2. He wrote those ‘Riverworld’ books, in which a load of historical and fictional characters intermingle aboard a phantasmagorical riverboat and – as I recall some guy once telling me in A level college – have uproarious sex with each other.

3. His earlier SF work seems in fact to have been chiefly defined by his insistence upon adding SEX to proceedings – a development which, at the time, was considered about as welcome as, say, adding giant lobsters to a drawing room murder mystery.

So, yes – bawdy eroticism, intertextual post-modernism and annoying people. That seems to have been Philip José Farmer’s bag, but it’s high time I found out for myself, I reasoned, and the three early ‘50s novellas which make up ‘The Alley God’ seemed like a pretty good (by which I mean, entirely random, and short) place to start.

The first of the three, ‘The Alley Man’ (1959), appears to involve the discovery of a sole surviving Neanderthal man living in some rural American backwater. It actually won a Hugo award for Best Short Story in 1960, but…. flicking through this story’s pages, it seems to be written almost entirely in exaggerated/comedic hayseed argot (sample line: “Hey, li’l chick, you din’t know Old Man knew them big words like contamination, didja? Hor, Hor, Hor!”), so, I’m sorry, but – no. Maybe I’ll return to it if I really enjoy the other two stories, I reasoned, but no way am I starting off with fifty-three pages of that.

The second novella, ‘The Captain’s Daughter’ (originally published as ‘Strange Compulsion’ in 1953) concerns a doctor posted to a lunar colony who finds himself attempting to treat a mysterious illness afflicting the teenage daughter of a moody star-ship captain, and discovering she has become victim to a new kind of parasite, which latches onto the human nervous system and feeds off sexual energy. Naturally this concept isn’t explored in the kind of graphic, Cronenberg-esque fashion a modern reader might expect, but I daresay it must have still been pretty provocative stuff for an early ‘50s SF audience, especially as the story’s climactic image of father and daughter momentarily locked in some kind of sweaty, inhuman embrace merrily tramples across the boundaries of conventional good taste.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad little skiffy yarn, and included a few nice bits of hastily sketched in ‘world building’, such as the addition of a disgruntled lunar detective, discussion of different planetary colonies on which the gender balance has somehow been catastrophically knocked off balance, and some background concerning a colony on a remote planet established by a non-conformist religious sect (to which the captain and his daughter belong), like some kind of interstellar Jonestown.

Unfortuantely though, it also felt far too long, stretching a simple idea which might have worked well for a ten-page short story out of novella length, and is also marred by some questionable, ‘50s sit-com style humour and horrendously dated gender politics. Both of these traits are exemplified by the character of the nurse who assists our protagonist - a ‘ditzy’ walking stereotype whose every line of dialogue concerns her desperate need to find a husband, wishing aloud that her next patient may be a virile male who’ll take her up in his arms, and wondering why the hunky doctor refuses to fall for her charms etc etc. You get the picture I’m sure, and it’s a pretty tedious one.

These flaws are carried over wholesale into what is undoubtedly the most interesting of the three stories included here, ‘The God Business’ (1954), a frankly bizarre concoction of aberrant notions which plays in part like a sensualist / absurdist precursor to Boris & Arkady Strugatsky’s Russian SF classic, ‘The Roadside Picnic’ (1972), and in part like the weirdest reimagining of a ‘Heart of Darkness’-style journey narrative I’ve ever encountered.

A challenging tale to try to summarise to say the least, the idea behind this novella essentially concerns an Illinois college professor named Bill Durham known for his unhealthy fixation with the Olympian Gods. Using powers left unspecified in the text, he seems to have turned a souvenir beer bottle bearing the image of a bull into a magical fountain, spewing some kind of potent elixir known only as ‘the brew’, with which he proceeds to spike his town’s water supply, transforming the local populace into naked, uninhibited revellers, untroubled by the usual human weaknesses of pain, hunger, aging etc.

Reigning over his subjects in the guise of a bull-god named ‘Mahrud’, Durham turns the area surrounding the town into into a kind of anarchic and constantly mutating ‘forbidden zone’, ruled over by his assigned demi-gods, who also take on cartoon-ish, animal identities, and using brew-filled water pistols to rout the platoon of U.S. Marines who are naturally dispatched to contain this unwarranted outbreak of craziness.

Into this mess steps our hero, Daniel Temper, a former student of Durham, who is afflicted by crippling self-esteem issues as a result of his bald head, stammering and false teeth. Accompanied by a stern yet beautiful young female army Major (?!), Temper is sent to infiltrate Durham’s ‘zone’. He and his companion travel naked, carrying nothing but a heavy canister of purified water, their assigned mission being to kill Durham and locate and neutralise the source of his miraculous ‘brew’.

Frankly, this is all just as weird as it sounds, rendered all the more so by Farmer’s insistence upon loading the thing with rib-tickling bad jokes and low level misogyny, and on trying to present Temper’s episodic encounters with assorted oddball characters as some kind of grand, all-encompassing allegory which I didn’t really understand even after Durham – when he finally makes his Kurtz-like appearance – had spent several entire pages painstakingly explaining it all.

Overall, I really wasn’t sure what to make of all this really, but I certainly appreciated the almost Jodorowsky-esque head-spinning surrealism of the whole affair, and there was a certain fascination which kept me reading, despite the unctuous, all-over-the-map tone of Farmer’s writing.

In fact, reading these two novellas, my ill-informed preconceptions about Farmer seem to have been entirely borne out. Both of these stories go out of their way to poke fun at uptight, 1950s attitudes to human sexuality, instead positing a kind of earthy, let-it-all-hang-out openness to the subject. ‘The God Business’ at least is also loaded with eye-watering literary puns and complex references to everything from Greco-Roman mythology to newspaper cartoon strips, and the overall authorial persona which emerges from these works is indeed pretty annoying, in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

I’d be tempted to conclude that these feel like stories written by someone’s creepy, loud-mouthed uncle, but…. when we reach a certain age, aren’t we all essentially someone’s creepy uncle (or aunt)? It would seem harsh to dismiss Farmer simply on that basis, and heaven knows, these stories certainly proved sufficiently peculiar to merit my adding a few more volumes bearing his name to my ‘to read’ pile, in order to see how things panned out later in his career.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Lovecraft on Film Appendum:
Two Panthers.

For reasons outlined in my previous post, I‘m unable to show off any vintage Lovecraft paperbacks which include ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ amongst their contents, so failing that, now seems as good a time as any to share these scans of two rather battered remnants of Panther’s early ‘70s UK horror range, which I recently added to my collection.

Both are blessed with hugely evocative wraparound cover illustrations which I think capture the feel of the contents pretty well, in its own idiosyncratic fashion. The artwork for ‘The Haunter of the Dark’ (1972 printing) is unmistakably tbears the seal of the great Ian Miller (who is still working to this day, and was producing Lovecraft-inspired canvasses as recently as 2014), but an artwork credit for ‘The Tomb’ (1969 printing) sadly eludes me.

“It’s not often you get a Lovecraft for 20p,” I recall the lady behind the counter in Michael’s Bookshop in Ramsgate remarking, but a glimpse at the eldritch sigils inscribed upon the interior pages, together with their general condition, certainly helped justify this uniquely affordable price-tag.

‘Haunter of the Dark’ meanwhile is in slightly better shape, but still has a badly cracked spine, leaving pages ready to fly to the four winds as soon as some poor soul actually tries to read it. Ah well. Nonetheless, I’ve tried my best to take some scans of the full, wraparound covers, which can be enjoyed or downloaded by clicking on the images below. Apologies for the slightly blurriness on the ‘Haunter..’ scan – it was difficult to get it lined up on the scanner without further damaging the binding.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Lovecraft on Film:
Re-animator (1985) and
the Great ‘70s Lovecraft Drought.

(Part # 2 of 2)


“I must say Dr. Hill, I'm very disappointed in you. You steal the secret of life and death, and here you are trysting with a bubble-headed co-ed. You're not even a second-rate scientist!”
- Herbert West, ‘Re-animator’ (1985)

[You can read Part # 1 of this post here.]

Prior to the surprise success of its film adaptation, H.P. Lovecraft’s six part serial ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ had remained a contentious and obscure item within the author’s bibliography.

Predating Lovecraft’s tenure as a doyen of the ‘Weird Tales’ demi-monde, the serial’s completion dates back to his earlier involvement in the slightly more genteel ‘amateur publishing’ scene, originally appearing in six monthly instalments in a periodical named ‘Home Brew’ between February and July 1922. In view of Home Brew’s “semipro” status, it has generally been assumed that the publication of ‘Herbert West..’ represented Lovecraft’s very first paid writing gig (he later boasted that he received five dollars per instalment).

Given that Home Brew appears to have been a primarily humourous / satirical publication, billing itself as ‘America’s Zippiest Pocket Magazine’, and sometimes ‘A Thirst Quencher for Lovers of Personal Liberty’ (whatever that was supposed to imply circa 1922), one wonders how its readership can possibly have reacted to the then-unknown Lovecraft exercising his liberty by banging out a series of inordinately gruesome and morbid variations on the Frankenstein mythos.

Presumably the response can’t have been entirely negative however, given that ‘Home Brew’ went on to publish HPL’s ‘The Lurking Fear’ the following year, prominently announcing it on the cover of their January 1923 edition.

The June 1922 edition of ‘Home Brew’, featuring the penultimate chapter of ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ – billed top left as “The HORROR from the SHADOWS – Better than Edgar Allen Poe [sic]” - alongside what look to be some “pungent jests” at the expense of the era's Women's Movement, and a Humorous Tale of Hootchers, whatever they might be.

In spite of this unlikely origin however, ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ remains one of the most alarming, gore-splattered and generally over-the-top horror stories Lovecraft ever signed his name to, as well as one of the most straight-forwardly commercial. In fact, it has often been suggested that Lovecraft composed the story as a deliberate parody of the kind of crude and blood-thirsty tales peddled by the era’s pulps - hence its presence in what was ostensibly a ‘humour’ magazine, I suppose.

Possibly the author even stated this himself at some point (having not ploughed through the entirety of his voluminous correspondence, I’m unsure), but even so, it’s a theory that has never really rung true to me.

For one thing, ‘Herbert West…’ is rendered in dense and atmospheric prose which, though certainly pretty bizarre, is no less tortuously worked over than that of Lovecraft’s quote-unquote ‘serious’ tales, betraying little sign of any obvious ‘gags’. And besides – were there really a sufficient number of similar tales being published in early ‘20s pulps for Lovecraft to undertake a ‘parody’ of them…?

Again, I can’t claim an exhaustive knowledge of the market for weird/macabre fiction in the early 1920s, but I find it hard to believe that there was much of this kind of anatomically explicit, corpse-mangling body horror doing the rounds at the time (indeed, the notorious ‘weird menace’ / ‘shudder-pulp’ subgenre didn’t even make an appearance on America’s newsstands until the 1930s).

In terms of the general extremity of its content in fact, ‘Herbert West..’ often feels shockingly ahead of its time. It’s certainly difficult to locate many parodic chuckles amongst the story’s cannibalised children and literally ankle-deep gore, or in such chilling observations as, “he usually finished his experiments with a revolver, but a few times he had not been quick enough”.

At a push, you could perhaps detect a certain strain of humour in Herbert West’s obsessive single-mindedness, and in his repeated insistence that the horrors perpetrated by his reanimated corpses are simply the result of his being forced to work with raw materials which are “not fresh enough” – elements with could, at a stretch, have provided the impetus for the blackly comic tone which came to define Dennis Paoli’s script for Gordon’s film.

Either way, it is certainly easy to see the kernel of Jeffrey Combs’ performance as West in Lovecraft’s descriptions of the character as, “..a fastidious Baudelaire of physical experiment, a languid Elagabalus of the tombs”, “..gloat[ing] calmly over artificial monstrosities which would make most healthy men drop dead from fright and disgust”. (1)

For the most part though, as with much of Lovecraft’s later work, it is difficult to really judge how much of the laughter and disbelief engendered by the tale’s assorted craziness was intentional, and how much simply the result of HPL’s weird imagination shooting off sparks in random directions, overtaking his ability to effectively convey his ideas in words.

Are we meant to laugh at the idea of West absent-mindedly depositing the severed head of Major Sir Eric Clapham-Lee in a “hellish vat” of “reptile embryo tissue”? Or at the “shocking riot” later precipitated by the ragged platoon of misfit zombies led by the decapitated airman and his replica wax head, and the baffled press report of their activities recounted by our narrator (“..he was a menacing military figure who talked without moving his lips and whose voice seemed almost ventriloquially connected with an immense black case he carried”)? In what tone of voice are we to read Lovecraft’s description of the final chapter’s titular ‘Tomb-Legions’ as being variously “human, semi-human, fractionally human, and not human at all”?

From a modern perspective, it’s difficult not to find at least some amusement in all this (indeed, the OTT zaniness of the story’s final scenes was captured extremely well by Brain Yuzna’s sequel ‘Bride of Reanimator’ (1990), which incorporates quite a lot of the Lovecraft material excised from the first film), but really, these antics are no more surreal than the kind of off-kilter physical absurdities which frequently pop up in Lovecraft’s later, more ‘serious’ tales. (Just think for instance of the revelation of Wilbur Wheatley’s mutant pineapple body in ‘The Dunwich Horror’, or the wooden head and phonograph apparatus used by the alien Mi-Go to fool our protagonist into thinking he is conversing with a human being in ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’, to name but a few.)

There is certainly little to laugh at however in the heady philosophical themes which ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ dabbles with. Both pre-figuring the bleak ‘cosmicism’ of Lovecraft’s later work and echoing the scientific angst of Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, the passages concerning Herbert West’s explicit desire to “..relegate the mystery of life to the category of myth” through his experiments speaks for themselves, with the mad medical student’s proclamations of his ultra-materialist beliefs feeling very much like a reflection of Lovecraft’s own - especially when our unnamed narrator begins railing bitterly against the cozy, superstitious illusions clung to by the complacent academic establishment, as represented by the Miskatonic University Medical School’s esteemed Dean Halsey.

In contrast to his friend’s militant insistence upon “..the essentially mechanistic nature of life,” our narrator’s nonetheless harbours some hopes of extracting news of the afterlife from the duo’s revitalised subjects (he “..yet held vague instinctive remnants of the primitive faith of my forefathers”, he admits), receiving nothing but chattering gibberish and howls of pain for his trouble (along with a memorable confession of his partners murderous intent). This feels like a dark and gloating dismissal of the ‘soul’ or divine spark within humanity on Lovecraft’s part, directly anticipating the grimly mechanistic view of life underpinning the post-Romero zombie mythos, into whose lineage Gordon’s film would neatly slot itself over six decades later.

However it was intended to be read though, one thing we know for certain about ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ is that Lovecraft didn’t like it, decrying it in later years as worthless hack work which he only bothered completing for the money. (That $5 a month must have bought a lot of ham n’ beans for a young bachelor of Providence in the early ‘20s.)

This distaste for the material was apparently shared by Lovecraft’s primary literary executor, August Derleth, who for decades pointedly excluded ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ from any of the collections of Lovecraft’s work posthumously published by his Arkham House imprint – an omission mirrored by the subsequent mass-market Lovecraft paperbacks of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which tended to replicate Arkham House’s texts wholesale. (2)

Recalling the origins of his film, Stuart Gordon has often stated that, though he’d read Lovecraft, he was entirely unaware of ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ until a conversation about the absence of any contemporary Frankenstein movies led a friend to suggest he check it out as a potential source for his new horror project.

Following up on this lead, Gordon recalls that he was forced to put in an inter-library loan request with the Chicago Public Library, and, six months later, found himself summoned by telephone to consult the dusty, yellowing pile of pulp magazines which the noble librarians had diligently tracked down for him (presumably either the original ‘Home Brew’ issues or a 1941 set of re-prints in ‘Weird Tales’). Impressed with what he read, Gordon convinced the library staff to let him take a xerox of the story’s six chapters, and it is from this copy that the project which eventually became ‘Re-animator’ began to take shape.(3)


“Who's going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow!”
- Herbert West, ‘Re-animator’ (1985)

In looking at the way in which Lovecraft’s episodic, repetitious and frequently distasteful tale was transformed into a lean, commercially viable 90 minute feature film by ‘Re-animator’s production team, it will probably prove most instructive to consider the aspects of the story which were removed, and the ways in which their absence affected the remaining material as the project underwent a rather convoluted transition from a filmed theatrical production, to a proposed series of 30 minute TV episodes, to a stand-alone feature.

Most obviously, we have the filmmakers’ decision to shift the action to the present day – a budgetary necessity which allows Herbert West’s depredations to play out against a drab backdrop of generic hospital corridors, basement operating rooms and college dorms, immediately reclaiming the vast quantities of dough which would no doubt have been shelled out on vintage sets, costumes and period appropriate medical equipment, but perhaps also jettisoning Lovecraft’s wildly-wrought atmosphere of squalid, Edwardian gothic creepery in the process, foregrounding realism and losing that cherished sense of a world in which pieces of crockery, minor ailments and weather alike can all be justifiably described as ‘unnameable’.

Naturally, modernising the story meant ditching the outbreak of ‘plague’ which consumes Arkham in the story’s second chapter (‘The Plague-Daemon’), claiming the life of the esteemed Dean Halsey. (In typically over-wrought fashion, Lovecraft here make it sound as if the Black Death has finally reached New England – “..and then had come the scourge, grinning and lethal, from the nightmare caverns of Tartarus,” etc.) Also crossed out at this point, one assumes, was the entirety of chapter #5 (‘The Horror from the Shadows’), which sees West and his unnamed assistant enrolling in the Canadian Army as volunteer medics prior to the U.S.A.’s entry into World War One, thus allowing them to take advantage of the steady supply of fresh meat offered by the carnage of the Western Front. (4)

Though elements from both these chapters were cleverly integrated into Paoli’s eventual shooting script, we can nonetheless imagine the profound sense of relief producer Brian Yuzna must have felt as he consigned the pages detailing these assorted episodes to the office waste paper bin.

When interviewed by the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast in 2009, Stuart Gordon also made clear that another section of Lovecraft’s tale never considered for adaptation was chapter # 3 (‘Six Shots by Moonlight’), in which West and the story’s narrator find themselves providing medical assistance to an illegal boxing ring, eventually administering their re-agent to the body of a deceased black pugilist, with predictably catastrophic results. (5)

Though this chapter is rich in potentially cinematic imagery, the main reason for its omission will, I think, be immediately clear to most modern readers. Namely, it represents one of the most noxious examples of racism in Lovecraft’s fiction, rivalled only by his singularly disturbing 1925 tale ‘The Horror at Red Hook’. Alongside the inevitable outburst of choice ‘othering’/dehumanising verbiage thrown in the direction of the “negro” boxer here furthermore, it’s interesting to note an even greater quantity of hatred is directed toward the Italian and Irish population who comprise the “polyglot” labour force of the fictional factory town of Bolton.

Forcibly reminding us of Lovecraft’s deep-rooted fear and loathing of pretty much everything in the world except Anglo-Saxon men of proven aristocratic lineage, his characterisation of these recent immigrants as a kind of brutal, barely sentient under-class is spiteful and ignorant in the extreme, leaving a bad taste in the mouth which significantly undermines the ghoulish pleasure we might otherwise take in the chapter’s memorably horrific finale – an image which in itself would likely have proved a bit too much for even the most liberal of rating/censorship boards, had it made it to the screen in the mid ‘80s. All in all then, no surprise perhaps that this entire episode met with a clear “no f-ing way” from the budding filmmakers.

Further changes meanwhile were necessitated by the casting of Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, as the actor’s dark complexion and commanding presence immediately contrasted with Lovecraft’s repeated descriptions of his character’s “yellow hair, pale blue eyes and soft voice” – an example of the curious ambiguity Lovecraft’s work of this era seems to express toward the Teutonic racial ideals one would naturally have expected him to gravitate toward, given his virulent white supremacism. (See also his fascinating 1920 story ‘The Temple’, which seems to fall back on left-over WWI propaganda portrayals of the dastardly Hun, and the disquiet he apparently expressed to friends regarding the rise of Nazism during the 1930s.)

Yet another element excised from the film meanwhile was the story’s aforementioned philosophical angle, with the tightly paced horror/action/comedy formula understandably offering little opportunity to mull over the finer points of West’s materialist zealotry (although the motif of the re-animators attempting to obtain a message from the after-life is amusingly reprised in the “you…. BASTARD” exchange between West and Dr Hill’s severed noggin).

Rather than being consciously rejected by Gordon and Paoli however, one imagines that this aspect of the story was side-lined simply because it felt unnecessary to re-state it in the context of the mid 1980s.

When Lovecraft was writing, his strident expression of an almost misanthropically cruel scientific atheism, alongside his portrayal of the human body as profane, dead clay powered only by crude, electrical impulses, must have seemed a shocking, or at least provocative, statement of intent. Sixty years later however, such a stance was pretty much the default expectation for an audience of horror fans shaped by the work of Romero, Fulci and Cronenberg (not to mention the increasingly grotesque run of European Frankenstein movies which proceeded them in the ‘60s and ‘70s). Wasting time allowing the characters to pontificate about it would simply have been surplus to requirements. Zombies, man - we get it.

Far more of a shocker for the Lovecraft purists who dutifully rocked up to witness ‘Re-animator’ upon its release in 1985 must have been – brace yourselves – the addition of a female character to the story… and one who persists in going to bed with men, and taking her clothes off, even!

We needn’t dwell too much here upon Lovecraft’s pointed avoidance of the feminine within his fiction, but suffice to say, whilst nine out of ten horror fans would probably agree that Barbara Crampton’s performance as Megan Halsey adds immeasurably to ‘Re-animator’s success as a movie, her presence must similarly have proved the last straw for some of the dustier defenders of the author’s literary legacy.

Whilst most of us can likewise agree that the future of Lovecraftian cinema was better off without such hypothetical outraged purists however, there is immense irony in the fact that, although he would go on to establish himself as the greatest booster for Lovecraft’s work cinema has yet known, Stuart Gordon initially succeeded in putting ol’ H.P. back on the filmic map with an adaptation entirely lacking in any of the ideas or aesthetic tropes we would generally consider “Lovecraftian”.

Indeed, by systematically nixing the story’s gothic/period atmosphere, metaphysical pondering and overtones of racist/classist white male hysteria, Gordon and his collaborators transformed ‘Re-animator’ into a sleek, contemporary, audience-pleasing horror movie, so far removed from the ‘feel’ of its contentious literary precursor that, given the story’s obscurity at the time the film was made, they could probably have gotten away with not crediting their source material at all, had they wished to. Scrub out the script’s references to Arkham and Miskatonic, and in all likelihood, only a handful of scholars and ‘Weird Tales’ obsessives would even have noticed the theft. And, in the pre-internet era, what would a few spluttering editorials in ‘Crypt of Cthulhu’ have mattered anyway?

But, Gordon and Yuzna are honest gents, and they did credit their sources, even allowing executive producer/Empire Pictures head honcho Charles Band to proudly trumpet “H.P. Lovecraft’s classic tale of terror..” on the film’s posters and other marketing materials. In fact, this billing gels rather nicely with the film’s bold, orchestral score (from Band’s brother Richard), it’s luminescent animated credits sequence, and the broad, theatrical acting styles favoured by Gordon, all of which help lend a touch of literary ‘classicism’ to proceedings, squaring the circle of Lovecraftian cinema to that date by evoking the conventions of the Corman/Poe cycle of the 1960s, whilst at the same time rekindling the frayed links between horror cinema and Lovecraft/Weird Tales fandom for a new generation of insurgent, VHS-rocking gorehounds.

Whether any of the comparative flood of Lovecraft adaptations that have made it to the screen in subsequent decades have matched up to ‘Re-animator’s success as a perfectly formed entertainment is debatable, but making a Lovecraft movie is always a bold move, and I’d contest that even the wonkiest and most misguided attempts to do so have helped enrich our culture in some small fashion. Certainly more-so than the yawning void which preceded ‘Re-animator’s release through the ‘70s, that’s for sure, and for breaking the “unfilmable” curse, we owe Gordon, Yuzna, Paoli and co. a mighty thanks.


(1) Elagabalus = Roman emperor from 218 to 222AD who rose to power aged 14, and died aged 18 in an assassination plot reportedly orchestrated by his own grandmother, following a reign characterised by an unprecedented degree of sexual depravity and religious idolatry. Boy, those Romans, eh? (Thanks Wikipedia.)

(2) As far as I’m aware, the first publication of ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ subsequent to it’s original appearance in ‘Home Brew’ and the 1942 re-print in ‘Weird Tales’ came in Arkham House’s 1987 anthology ‘Dagon and Other Macabre Tales’, the final collection in a three volume set of Lovecraft’s work edited by S.T. Joshi, which has been widely reprinted ever since. Though Arkham House claimed the contents of these collections were “selected by August Derleth” (who passed away in 1971), one naturally suspects that the inclusion of ‘Herbert West..’ must have been influenced by the recent success of Gordon’s film. (Source.)

(3) Although I don’t have a print source for this story, you can hear Gordon reiterate it in various place – the 2007 ‘Re-animator: Ressurectus’ documentary, his director’s commentary track for the film, and during his aforementioned guest appearance on the above-mentioned H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, to name but a few.

(4) One writer who clearly did recall Herbert West’s adventures on the Western Front is Kim Newman, who includes West as a minor character in his WWI-set ‘Anno Dracula’ sequel ‘The Bloody Red Baron’ (1994), which sees him operating a deranged field hospital of pain, working under the tutelage of his equally misunderstood predecessor, the notorious Dr Moreau.

(5) Episodes 24 and 25 of the podcast, for the record – if you’ve enjoyed reading all this, you’ll probably find them worth a listen.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Lovecraft on Film:
Reanimator (1985) and
the Great ‘70s Lovecraft Drought.

(Part # 1 of 2)


“While he was with me, the wonder and diabolism of his experiments fascinated me utterly, and I was his closest companion. Now that he is gone and the spell is broken, the actual fear is greater. Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.”
- H.P. Lovecraft, ‘Herbert West: Re-animator’

To get this out of the way right from the outset: this post (split into two parts for reasons of length and general practicality) is not going to be a conventional review of Stuart Gordon’s ‘Re-animator’.

I mean, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you like horror movies. And if you like horror reviews, chances are you’re already familiar with ‘Re-animator’. And if you’re already familiar with ‘Re-animator’, chances are you like it. I know I certainly do.

In fact, Stuart Gordon is one of the few living genre directors of whom I can truthfully say that I have seen most of the films, and have enjoyed all of them (yes, even ‘Space Truckers’). I’m a fan, it’s fair to say, but even so, I’d find it difficult to arguable against the proposition that Gordon’s first feature remains his very best.

From the mordant wit of Dennis Paoli’s script, to a magnificent set of performances provided by Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and David Gale (all adhering perfectly to the Vincent Price principle of going BIG whilst keeping a tight hand on the reins), to the unhinged sense of excess and bad taste brought to the project by producer Brian Yuzna and the gifted special effects team… what can you say, it’s a classic of the genre. One of those rare instances when all the stars align, all the elements are in place, and a great movie is summoned forth.

Beyond that however, I simply don’t have much to say about it, to be honest. In keeping with the wider remit I’ve tried to establish in earlier instalments of this ‘Lovecraft on Film’ series [see sidebar for links] therefore, I thought it might be more interesting to explore the wider circumstances which led Gordon and his collaborators to reignite the possibilities of adapting H.P. Lovecraft for the screen through the least quote-unquote “Lovecraftian” route imaginable, and before that, to reflect upon the remarkable fact that, during the fifteen years which preceded the release of ‘Re-animator’, no feature length film based on Lovecraft’s writings made it to the screen, anywhere in the world.

Given the extent to which Lovecraft’s influence has saturated horror culture these days, and particularly in view of the fact that the ‘70s saw sales of his fiction rise exponentially as the market for paperback horror took off and prime-mover Stephen King began talking him up as a key influence, such a statement seems extraordinary, but nonetheless, it’s true.

Between the release of AIP’s The Dunwich Horror in January 1970 and ‘Re-animator’ in October 1985, the only entries on IMDB which credit H.P. Lovecraft as a source are two episodes of the ‘Night Gallery’ TV series (both 1971), a fifty-minute West German TV movie based on ‘The Shadow Out of Time’ (H.P. Lovecraft: Schatten aus der Zeit (1975), starring Anton Diffring, no less), a couple of episodes of Italian TV anthologies in the early ‘80s (based on ‘The Silver Key’ and ‘The Thing On The Doorstep’ respectively), and two amateur short films based on ‘The Music of Erich Zann’ and ‘Pickman’s Model’ respectively. In terms of feature films though – zilch. (1)

So, caused the dark old well dry up for so long, following a brief burst of productivity during the 1960s? Behold, as assorted answers to that question crawl out of the murk and present themselves for inspection!

For one thing, none of the four Lovecraft adaptations made during the ‘60s proved particularly successful, either critically or commercially. Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace probably did least worst of the bunch, but it has still tended to get lost in the shuffle amongst the director’s more fondly remembered gothic films, and, given its branding as an ersatz Poe movie, few besides diehard genre fans would even have acknowledged it as a Lovecraft adaptation at the time. The three subsequent films meanwhile all found themselves variously written off as obscurities, embarrassments or disasters… which can scarcely have done much to encourage prospective producers to take a dip in the same stagnant waters.

Then, for another thing, we need to address that old chestnut about horror cinema ‘changing’ through the ‘70s, which I’m sure I don’t need to bore you with at length here. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ > ‘Last House On The Left’ > ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ – you know the score. Although gothic horror may have limped on in various mutant iterations in Europe, as far as the U.S. box office was concerned, gothic was already pretty much six feet under by the turn of the decade, surviving only in the tongue-in-cheek / post-modern context of the ‘Count Yorga’ movies and Dan Curtis’s ‘Dark Shadows’ franchise.

Of course, fans of HPL’s literary work could probably argue for days on end about the extent to which his writing may or may not be considered ‘gothic’, but so far as the movers n’ shakers on the shadier end of the mid-century U.S. film industry were concerned, Lovecraft was simply the guy you went to when you’d run out of Poe. And, after AIP gave up on their dogged attempts to milk a few more bucks from Edgar Allan following the flaccid reception accorded to Gordon Hessler’s deeply muddled ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ in July 1971, Poe movies were well and truly off the menu in America for a good long while – never mind those bearing the name of his perceived literary successor.

And, as if that wasn’t enough to discourage potential producers, we’re also talking here about an era in which the successive impact of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Omen’ had helped ensure that, if you did want to place your bets on a fantastical / metaphysical horror movie, you’d damn well better stick to the familiar world of Christian dualism -- the very thing which Lovecraft pointedly excised from his fiction from the outset, arguing that it was boring, played out and antithetical to his essentially scientific, atheistic worldview.

After all, with an international audience revved up and hungry for all things Satan, what filmmakers in their right mind would waste their time struggling to bring the dread realm of Cthulhu or Yog-Sothoth to the screen? I mean, just think how many black candles and scary contact lenses you could get for the same outlay! It would be little short of lunacy.

Along similar lines meanwhile, I also have an inkling that, in some ways, the more people actually read Lovecraft during these years, and the more the outré nature of his work was acknowledged and discussed, the less likely screen adaptations of his work became. After all, fools rush in etc. Given that the Lovecraft movies produced during the ‘60s, when his work remained relatively obscure, continued to be written off as failures, could it have been during the following decade that the author’s reputation as being “unfilmable” really took hold…?

As comprehensively unpromising as the outlook for full-blooded Lovecraftian cinema may have been during these years however, the extent to which his ideas began to seep into popular culture through other means cannot by overestimated, and the process by which his influence gradually began to seep up through the floorboards of the horror genre through some weird kind of fanboy osmosis, making its presence felt it a series of ostensibly unrelated movies, remains fascinating.


“The next night devils danced on the roofs of Arkham, and unnatural madness howled in the wind. Through the fevered town had crept a curse which some said was greater than the plague, and which some whispered was the embodied daemon-soul of the plague itself.”
- H.P. Lovecraft, ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’

I’m sure there must be other examples I’ve overlooked (suggestions to the usual address please), but so far as I’m aware at the time of writing, the only commercially released American horror film of the 1970s to take significant inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft was Willard Hyatt & Gloria Katz’ retrospectively revered ‘Messiah of Evil’ (1972).

In addition to winning praise from its fans for a nebulously defined “Lovecraftian atmosphere”, ‘Messiah..’ goes as far as to borrow its basic set-up (protagonist seeks lost relative in coastal town controlled by sinister cult) and a number of plot points from HPL’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ (1931), with Elisha Cook Jr’s wonderful turn as an exposition-spouting alcoholic hobo in particular seemingly modelled directly upon the story’s Zadok Allen character.

Though only published posthumously, ‘..Innsmouth’ certainly stands out one of Lovecraft’s more cinematic and comparatively action-packed tales, and it is possible that Hyatt & Katz’ script for ‘Messiah of Evil’ may have even started life as a direct adaptation. Wisely though perhaps, the couple took the decision to entirely ditch both the story’s Cthulhu Mythos references and Lovecraft’s barely-concealed fears of racial miscegenation, instead introducing their own equally compelling and ambiguous supernatural schema which, together with the film’s bold and expressionistic visual style, has helped ‘Messiah..’ live on as a haunting and fascinating artefact, widely regarded as one of the era’s most unique and accomplished independent horror films.

Elisha Cook Jr tells of the Dark Stranger and the Blood Moon in ‘Messiah of Evil’ (1972).

After that though, the trail pretty much goes cold in terms of Lovecraftian cinema for the remainder of the ‘70s, only really picking up at the dawn of the 1980s, by which point wink-nod references to Lovecraft and his mythos had firmly established themselves as a common-place in the in-joke-happy, none-more-nerdy domains of comic books, fanzines and RPGs, slowly but surely making their way into heavy metal lyrics (Metallica’s ‘The Call of Ktulu’ appeared on ‘Ride the Lightning’ in ’84, most significantly), and, inevitably, the newly resurgent world of independent / underground horror cinema.

First off the slab according to my calculations was Lucio Fulci’s defiantly nonsensical gore-fest ‘Paura Nella Città Dei Morti Viventi’ [‘City of the Living Dead’], released in Italy in August 1980, which pays direct tribute to Lovecraft by establishing its setting as the fog-strewn New England town of Dunwich, even though it otherwise relies such familiar horror tropes as dead priests, ‘hell’, telekinesis and zombies to do its dirty work.

Lovecraft’s work seems to have been fairly widely read in translation in Italy (Mario Bava declared himself a fan during the ‘60s), and suffice to say, Fulci and/or his co-writer Dardano Sacchetti must surely have been devotees of the Weird Tales canon, as is made abundantly clear by their next film, the legendary ‘L’ Aldilà’ [‘The Beyond’], first unleashed upon a paying public in April 1981.

A 1974 Italian Lovecraft collection (name & rather way-out cover illustration both taken from ‘Dreams in the Witch House’), from the personal library of Dino de Laurentiis, no less. (Yours on Ebay for $70.86 U.S. at the time of writing.)

Although it shifts its action down the East Coast to a particularly swampy New Orleans, and retains the reanimated corpses and hell-fixated metaphysics of its predecessor, ‘The Beyond’s evocative, period-set opening - in which a posse of lantern-bearing Edwardian townsfolk cross a lake to forcibly put an end to some black magickal goings-on in the lower depths of the film’s decrepit Southern gothic hotel - bears more than a passing resemblance to Lovecraft’s ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ (written 1927 / published 1941), as well as sharing that novel’s musty, decrepit atmosphere.

Curiously though, ‘The Beyond’s script also goes on to repeatedly evoke, not the more famous Necronomicon, but The Book of Eibon – a rival grimoire created by Lovecraft’s friend and contemporary Clark Ashton Smith in his 1933 Hyperborean tale ‘Ubbo-Sathla’ and subsequently added to the ever-expanding lists of forbidden tomes which HPL liked to incorporate into his tales, before its history and contents were significantly expanded upon by Lin Carter, in his later fantasy work and posthumous C.A.S. ‘collaborations’.

Being somewhat of a pedant regarding such things (as you may have noted), I’ve often found myself sitting through ‘The Beyond’s assorted eye-gougings and face-meltings wondering exactly what led Fulci & Sacchetti to this fairly esoteric bit of mythos referencin’. Did the Necronomicon already feel a bit obvious and old hat by this point? Were they worried about copyright, or about the expectations that referencing the more famous tome might create? Or, did ‘The Book of Eibon’ simply sound cooler, and more mysterious..? Who knows.

Speaking of grimoires meanwhile, the film which arguably did more to raise awareness of the Lovecraft mythos than anything before or since was just around the corner whilst Fulci & co were raising hell at the Seven Doors Hotel. If you’ve kept reading this far, you probably won’t need me to remind you that ‘The Evil Dead’ premiered in October 1981, and that its enthusiastic portrayal of the dread Necronomicon – writhing supernatural faces carved into the human skin of its binding, in a beautiful piece of production design – soon became the stuff of pop culture legend.

Actually, the extent to which Sam Raimi and his collaborators were directly inspired by Lovecraft in their decision to include the book in their film is debatable – its portrayal as a “Sumerian book of the dead” points instead to the influence of the bogus ‘Simon’ Necronomicon which emerged from the scene surrounding Manhattan’s ‘Magickal Childe’ occult supply shop in 1977 – but nonetheless, the film’s impact in terms of cementing the Mad Arab’s fearful tome in the public consciousness and encouraging horror fans across the globe to investigate its literary origins, cannot be underestimated. (2)

Post-‘Evil Dead’, we begin to see this kind of veiled Lovecraft referencin’ seeping into Hollywood studio productions for the first time, even whilst direct attributions or adaptations were not yet forthcoming.

It would perhaps be stretching the point a little to claim that John Carpenter’s esteemed ‘The Thing’ (released in June 1982) seems to draw upon imagery and ideas taken from Lovecraft’s ‘At The Mountains of Madness’ (written 1931 / published 1936) in addition to its more obvious sources (the 1951 Hawks/Nyby film, John W. Campbell’s original story, ‘Alien’) – but, we certainly wouldn’t be the first to make this connection, and the fact that Carpenter went on the seed similarly oblique Lovecraftian ideas into his later films (‘Prince of Darkness’ (1987), ‘In The Mouth of Madness’ (1994)) likewise lends weight to the argument. (3)

Looking at the other big names in horror meanwhile, we could perhaps read the ‘Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill’ segment of George Romero & Stephen King’s anthology ‘Creepshow’ (1982) as a tribute to Lovecraft’s ‘The Color Out of Space’ (1927), but, as Kim Newman has puckishly observed on at least one occasion, the biggest Cthulhu Mythos movie of the 1980s was actually none other than ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984).

I mean, just think about it – strangely-named, malevolent gods breaking through from other dimensions, assorted rambling about keys and gatekeepers, mind-bending non-Euclidian geometry? Whichever way you care to look at it, the final act of ‘Ghostbusters’ gets closer to the heart of HPL’s vision than anything that had been put on screen up to this point.

The Temple of Gozer rises from the unfathomable abyss in ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984).

The most extraordinary aspect of this realisation I think is that, by throwing all this stuff into their script, Ramis & Aykroyd were essentially parodying a style of horror which, in cinematic terms at least, didn’t even exist in any meaningful form - a testament to the extent to which Lovecraft’s influence had seeped into the foundations of American culture, in spite of the entertainment industry’s reluctance to approach his work directly.

And, it’s at this point that we re-introduce our friend Stuart Gordon, a former ‘60s radical and principal founder of Illinois’s confrontational Screw Theatre ensemble, who, when he started work on the project which became ‘Re-animator’, remained a director of Chicago’s successful, and slightly more conventional, Organic Theatre Company, which he had helped establish in 1969 in partnership with his wife, actress Caroline Purdy-Gordon.

Though Gordon had no previous experience in the film industry, the early ‘80s found him with a yen to move into the realm of film and/or TV production, and, making a quick scan of the preceding years’ budgets and box office, he soon decided, as so many had before him, that a horror project would seem an expedite way to make the transition.

As a keen reader of Lovecraft and Poe, we can easily imagine Gordon gleefully scanning back through his favourite stories in search of budget conscious inspiration… but the path which eventually led him to almost single-handedly reinvent the film industry’s perception of H.P. Lovecraft took him considerably beyond his well-thumbed paperbacks.

To be continued…


(1) The Music of Erich Zann (John Strysik, 1980) runs 17 minutes and was screened at the Young Chicago Filmmakers Festival in October 1980. Pickman’s Model (Cathy Welch, 1981) runs 32 minutes and screened at some point that year in Austin, Texas. To my knowledge, neither of these films has ever been commercially released, but if you know where I can track copies down, please feel free to hit me up, because I’d love to be able to factor them into my overview of Lovecraftian cinema at some point.

(2) A bit of a digression, but for anyone curious about the origins of the ‘Simon’ Necronomicon, I highly recommend this 2014 NY Press article, which is a great read re: ‘70s NY counter-cultural weirdness more generally, although, ironically in view of the subject matter, the NY Press website neglects to include a by-line telling us who actually wrote the damned thing.

(3) It’s interesting to note that the three Carpenter films which draw upon Lovecraftian imagery are the same ones the director has retrospectively grouped together as what he deems his “apocalypse trilogy”. Coincidence? Probably. Speaking of which, wouldn’t it be great if Carpenter had quit tippy-tapping around the margins of the mythos and make a full-blooded Lovecraft movie? Come on John - as the tale of Herbert West so clearly reminds us, it’s never too late!