The Dunwich Horror
Cast & Crew
Nancy Walker and Elizabeth Hamilton, two students who attend Miskatonic University and work in the school library, are putting away the Necronomicon , a rare book on the occult, after a lecture on the supernatural given by visiting professor Dr. Henry Armitage. Dr. Armitage discovers Wilbur Whateley memorizing ritual passages from the Necronomicon and is at first angry, but learns that Wilbur comes from nearby Dunwich, a village having a history of evil occurrences, and that Wilbur is the great-grandson of Oliver Whateley, who was hanged by the villagers as a demon. Nancy, finding herself attracted to Wilbur, offers to drive him home when he misses his bus. Later, in the old mansion where Wilbur lives with his grandfather, Wilbur drugs Nancy and sabotages her car, thus forcing her to stay for the night. (He plans to sacrifice her in a fertility rite in the hopes of gaining for himself contact with the spiritual world.) Nancy accepts his invitation to spend the weekend there, but her absence alarms both Elizabeth and Dr. Armitage, who learn that Wilbur's mother has been living in an insane asylum since giving birth to twins--Wilbur and a boy who has never been seen. Wilbur steals the Necronomicon from the library, kills a guard, and takes Nancy to the "Devil's Hopyard," a rocky hillside, for the ritual. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Dr. Armitage arrive at the Whateley house; Elizabeth opens a locked door and is immediately devoured by an invisible creature, the Dunwich Horror (Wilbur's twin). The Horror escapes and ravages the countryside, intending to kill Wilbur. Eventually, Dr. Armitage confronts Wilbur and the monster at the Devil's Hopyard, and there Armitage utters a curse which sends both Wilbur and the Dunwich Horror up in flames.
Joanne Moore Jordan
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Fred Feitshans Jr.
Richard C. Glouner
Curtis Lee Hanson
James H. Nicholson
The Dunwich Horror
Devastated by the loss of his mother in 1921, Lovecraft had married tradeswoman Sonia Greene but the failure of both her business and her health drove the couple into debt. Lovecraft returned to Providence without his wife and seems to have written The Dunwich Horror as a way to reassert his love for the mysteries of New England. The tale was inspired by various long-standing local myths he had heard as a guest of Evanore Beebe, who lighted her North Wilbraham, Massachusetts, home with lard burning lamps. Weird Tales paid Lovecraft the then-princely sum of $240 for the story, publishing it in 1929. Astonishingly prolific (his body of work was wide-ranging and included treatises on politics and art criticism) but never well paid, H. P. Lovecraft died in poverty from intestinal cancer in 1937, never imagining the influence his writing would exert on generations to come.
American International Pictures had wanted to mount a film adaptation of The Dunwich Horror as early as 1964, at which time their release schedule trumpeted an impending production to star Boris Karloff. The aging horror king had already appeared for AIP in the tongue-in-cheek The Raven (1963) and The Comedy of Terrors (1964), and would go on to headline Die, Monster, Die! (1965), Daniel Haller's adaptation of Lovecraft's 1927 story The Colour Out of Space, shot in the United Kingdom.
Half a decade would pass (and Karloff would die) before producers Roger Corman, Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson got their production of Dunwich (as the property was called through February of 1970) off the ground. AIP's January 1969 release schedule boasted the casting of Peter Fonda (fresh from the success of Corman's The Wild Angels, 1966) and Diane Varsi, a sensitive ingénue who had been blacklisted by the big studios for walking out on her Fox contract and who could find film work only with AIP.
By August of that year, the casting had undergone significant changes. Announced in place of Fonda (who made Easy Rider  instead) was Brandon De Wilde, child star of George Stevens' Shane (1953), then in his late 20s. When the production went before the cameras at the end of the year, it was Diane Varsi's Compulsion (1959) costar Dean Stockwell in the lead role, while Varsi herself was out and former teen queen Sandra Dee appearing in her place. (Varsi turned up instead in a supporting role in Corman's Bloody Mama  and De Wilde went to Europe to make the spaghetti Western The Deserter .) Also out of the picture was Hollywood veteran Ralph Bellamy, replaced at the last minute by another Hollywood veteran, Oscar®-winner Ed Begley.
The early casting of Bellamy was clearly inspired by the actor's appearance as an avuncular Satanist in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968). Directed by Daniel Haller, from a script credited to fledgling screenwriters Henry Rosenbaum, Ronald Silkosky and Curtis Hanson (two decades before LA Confidential, 1997) but to which AIP veterans Ray Russell and Charles Beaumont (authors of the script for Roger Corman's The Haunted Palace , an adaptation of Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward) also made unrecorded contributions, The Dunwich Horror was heavily influenced by the Polanski film and Ira Levin's source novel. Whereas Lovecraft's original is a classic monster-on-the-loose tale, the film rescues the character of Wilbur Whateley from an as-written early death so that he can play matchmaker for Dee's comely (and presumably fecund) coed and a formless Ancient One to beget a monstrous new race. (During postproduction, Dee did find herself pregnant but sadly miscarried shortly thereafter.) The result is a respectful attempt that fails for the same reason most Lovecraft adaptations do; it is unable to make literal that which Lovecraft left to the imagination.
Quarreling with his director, Stockwell (a self-professed Lovecraft fan) adapted a winking attitude toward the material, playing Wilbur Whateley with tongue planted firmly in cheek... and the approach serves the film surprisingly well. With the book's peregrinating horror reduced to some disappointing optical effects, Stockwell's hippie adept is the show and his outré performance (rivaling for sheer weirdness his celebrated comeback in David Lynch's Blue Velvet, 1986) puts The Dunwich Horror across as (to quote The Oregonian) "a pretty good bad movie."
Producers: Jack Bohrer, Roger Corman
Director: Daniel Haller
Screenplay: Curtis Lee Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, Ronald Silkosky; H.P. Lovecraft
Cinematography: Richard C. Glouner
Art Direction: Paul Sylos
Music: Les Baxter
Film Editing: Christopher Holmes
Cast: Sandra Dee (Nancy Wagner), Dean Stockwell (Wilbur Whateley), Ed Begley (Dr. Henry Armitage), Lloyd Bochner (Dr. Cory), Sam Jaffe (Old Whateley), Joanna Moore Jordan (Lavinia Whateley), Donna Baccala (Elizabeth Hamilton), Talia Coppola (nurse Cora), Mike Fox (Dr. Raskin), Jason Wingreen (Sheriff Harrison), Barboura Morris (Mrs. Cole), Beach Dickerson (Mr. Cole), Michael Haynes (guard), Toby Russ (librarian), Jack Pierce (Reeger).
by Richard Harland Smith
Lovecraft: A Biography by L. Sprague de Camp
The Complete H.P. Lovecraft Filmography by Charles P. Mitchell
Interview with Dean Stockwell by Craig Edwards, Psychotronic Video issue 21, 1995
Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee by Dodd Darin and Maxine Paetro
The Film Encyclopedia by Ephraim Katz
The Dunwich Horror
Sandra Dee, 1944-2005
She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin.
Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide.
Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart.
Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years.
The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977).
Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia.
by Michael T. Toole
Sandra Dee, 1944-2005
Location scenes filmed in Mendocino, California. Working title: Dunwich.
Released in United States Winter January 1970
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Winter January 1970