Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods” a fine stop-motion 2021 graduation project from Poland. Now complete and online, with English subtitles.
There’s now a website for the forthcoming The World of Lovecraft, which appears to be the feature-length documentary that S.T. Joshi was doing so much filming for a few years ago. According to the site the talking heads will now be…
…intertwined with a fictional investigative storyline which will allow to create a Lovecraftian atmosphere and to play with the viewer.
The Lone Animator returns to Yuggoth, with a new short film.
Here’s a bonus post in my regular “Picture Postals” slot, and also a movie suggestion for your weekend enjoyment and edification. This vintage NBC publicity press-picture was for the major TV movie Winds of Kitty Hawk (1978, colour). To my mind it very nicely evokes the entrepreneurial ‘back-shed science’ of the era in which Lovecraft grew up. After three years, and with no backers, the brothers succeeded. They had their first manned flight at Kitty Hawk just before Christmas 1903, at which point Lovecraft was then aged 13¼.
Surprisingly I find that that the movie is the only serious feature-length drama of the Wright Brothers and their marvellous flying machine. In 2014 Tom Hanks was reported to be tinkering with the idea of a heading up a TV mini-series on the brothers, but evidently it never flew. You might have thought there would a half-dozen big-budget cinema movies by now, and several lesser bio-pics from the 1940s and 50s… but no. It’s another one of those great moments in innovation history that big-budget cinema movie producers have been curiously uninterested in. There was another TV movie Orville and Wilbur (1972), part funded by the BBC, but it appears to have been lost.
But we do have the one decent surviving movie for the Wright Brothers. Made for TV, but said to be a pretty good movie from a somewhat mundane script. According to reviews it’s pre-PC, free of the usual time-waster love-story sub-plot, doesn’t distort the facts too much, and was nominated for several Emmy awards (Outstanding Film Editing, Outstanding Sound, Outstanding Cinematography). It’s now streaming in the USA on Amazon, though here in the UK you have to hang around on eBay or Amazon waiting for low-priced DVD to be offered. You have to beware of the cheap DVD-R and “Region 0” sellers on this, as for some reason there are a lot of dodgy people selling DVDs of it — that turn out to be some obscure bargain-bin crap that’s not the movie you paid for.
The other big movie which evokes the period, and indeed one that Lovecraft saw and adored for its vivid recreation of the era and settings of his boyhood, was the curiously titled Ah, Wilderness! (1935). Despite the misleading title this is not a ‘city dog lost in wild Alaska’ Jack London tale, but rather a Eugene O’Neill comedy…
Pitting Lionel Barrymore against a young up-and-comer named Mickey Rooney gives Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy the loving luster it deserves. Horseless carriages, straw boaters, nickle beer: Ah, Wilderness! is a portrait of an America long gone — but forever remembered.
Lovecraft told Bloch that he had seen Ah, Wilderness sometime in early January 1936, and had…
revelled in it. Yuggoth, but it made me homesick for 1906! [it] gives all sorts of typical 1906 glimpses, including an old street-car, a primitive steam automobile, &c. It was photographed in Grafton, Mass. … where the passing years have left little visible toll.
He wrote to Moe that the movie recalled certain sensibilities and values that had since been lost to the world. While watching it…
At times I could well believe that the past had come back, & that the last 3 decades were a bad dream. [the world it depicted] having many a value which might well have been preserved had social evolution been less violently accelerated by the war.
Ah, Wilderness! is set on the 4th of July 1906, in setting is meant to be a shore-town about 40 miles SW of Providence. This warm and human comedy is very well regarded, and is also now streaming in the USA. Together the two movies would probably make a pretty good double-bill, for those interested in the sensibilities of the ‘Young America’ of 1903-06 that helped form the young Lovecraft.
S. T. Joshi’s blog has updated, and includes news that…
Hippocampus is preparing to release a number of additional titles very soon, including a huge two-volume edition of Lovecraft’s Letters to Family and Family Friends.
These will contain the long-awaited complete set of letters from Lovecraft to his aunts. Looking at the Hippocampus website, I see that the new H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Alfred Galpin and Others [UPDATED & ENLARGED] is now available for order.
I’m also pleased to read on Joshi’s blog that he has rekindled an old, and apparently ardent, interest in British history. He has started reading the Oxford History of England (the original set, 1934-86) and has become interested in the reigns of the two Elizabeths (our current Queen Elizabeth, long may she reign, and Elizabeth the First from the time of Shakespeare). I recall that about twenty or more years ago I picked up a nearly complete set of History of England, swiftly gathered up by the armful and sold to me for a few pounds by a dozy Boy Scout at a jumble sale (USA equivalent: a large garage sale held in a church hall). I then filleted them for notes on West Midlands history, and then sold them for a handsome profit on eBay. That was before ebooks. I recall they’re surprisingly readable, though of course much has changed since. A number of the Marxist distortions introduced in the 1950s-70s have since been shown to be fudge and bunk (e.g. the claim that the slave trade funded the Industrial Revolution). Archaeology, genetics and other more obscure sciences have since illuminated seemingly impenetrable mysteries. But I’d imagine the 1934-86 set is still a good sound introduction, perhaps alongside Churchill’s abridged History of the English-Speaking Peoples, and its fine sequel by Andrew Roberts which covers the period from 1900 onward.
I’d send Joshi a cheap eBay DVD of the excellent movies Elizabeth / its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which it sounds like he’d enjoy — only I don’t know if his DVD player is multi-region or is locked to USA-only discs. The combo Elizabeth/Golden Age DVD appears to be three or four times more expensive on the USA eBay, presumably because it’s pitched as being an exotic imported art-house thing, but they’re dirt cheap here in the UK. Does anyone happen to know if Joshi can play DVDs sent in from anywhere in the world?
Anyway, talking of DVDs and Hippocampus, I see that Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams DVD is currently on a discount at a mere $10 plus shipping.
Back in summer 2011, I blogged here about the architecture of H.P. Lovecraft’s entrance into New York City. This being the Pennsylvania Station…
When Mr. H.P. Lovecraft stepped down onto the platform of the Pennsylvania Station, on his first ever visit to New York in April 1922, he was surrounded by the neo-gothic imagination in the very architecture of the place.
I now see that a 60-minute PBS documentary film appeared a few years later, American Experience: The Rise and Fall of Penn Station, being added to what appears to have become a cottage-industry of books about the station. The documentary seems very well reviewed by critics and buyers alike, and is now on Amazon Prime at $3. Though only in America. In the UK we have to get Prime and then buy a monthly subscription to PBS.
Further to my recently look at S. Fowler Wright and his biography and influence on Lovecraft, I’m pleased to see a post today lauding the restored 1933 movie of Fowler Wright’s science-fiction disaster classic Deluge (1927). It’s now available to stream…
Once a lost film and for decades only available in an Italian language print with English subtitles, it was recently restored from a newly-discovered 35mm nitrate negative with the English language soundtrack by Serge Bromberg’s Paris-based Lobster Films. Kino Repertory picked up the film for a limited theatrical re-release in the U.S. and now Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents the stateside disc debut of the Lobster restoration. It looks very good for its age, especially considering the original elements suffered partial decomposition. Digital tools have restored much of the image and the sharpness and the soundtrack is even more impressive, with a clarity not often heard in orphaned films of this vintage and a dynamic range to the musical score. The Blu-ray and DVD Kino Lorber release also features new audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith and a bonus feature: the 1934 B-movie Back Page, a newspaper drama starring Peggy Shannon.
Apparently the movie’s distributor went bankrupt shortly after it was released in 1933, and then the movie was abruptly pulled from cinemas and cannibalised — the spectacular and costly special-effects scenes were extracted and crafted into new “Destruction of New York!” shorts that could generate long-term profits for creditors. This catastrophe scuppered any hope of a Hollywood script-writing career for S. Fowler Wright, and he returned to England.
Did Lovecraft see it? Well, after a long hiatus Lovecraft had returned to movie-going circa the winter of 1932-33, as the quality of movies rapidly improved. He was later wowed by the historical time-travel drama Berkeley Square in 1933 for instance. It’s thus quite possible that the prospect of seeing the ‘pest zone’ of New York entirely destroyed and swept away would have enticed him to a 1933 viewing of Deluge (the movie’s makers had swopped out the English Cotswolds for New York).
Though the Barlow letters suggest that Lovecraft was often tardy in such things, waiting until the very end of a film’s local run before visiting the cinema. Presumably there was less of a noisy distracting crowd in the cinema during the last few days of screening, and that was the way he liked it. Perhaps the tickets were also cheaper at such times. Such tardiness may well have meant he missed Deluge, it being abruptly pulled from release before he could see it. I know of no evidence that he managed to catch the movie before it was pulled.
He somewhat sporadically continued to attend cinema shows, for instance adoring the 18th century British Empire romance-adventure Clive of India (1935) showing the founding of the British Empire in India. This he held up to Barlow, alongside Berkeley Square, as a movie that had given him a ‘real kick’. In such continued cinema-going it’s not impossible he may have, at some point in 1934-36, seen and enjoyed one of the “Destruction of New York!” shorts that Deluge became.
I’m pleased to discover The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, a 22-hour series which was the flagship series for HD TV, back in 1998-2000 when HD was a new thing. They cast well, spent $2m an episode, had lots of VFX, and superb and inventive scripts. Judging by the first few episodes it seems it paid off, and is a welcome reminder of the days when TV stories were stories, not an excuse for a string of political lectures.
But who knew there was such a thing, in steampunk? I’d never heard of the show before, despite it being loved by a hardcore of (rather quiet) fans. Part of the reason for that is that the show has never been released on DVD. Comments in old Starlog magazines suggest there was a very poorly promoted HD showing, and one gets the impression that most sci-fi fans had no clue it was even running. Then it was badly converted to film (too dark and muddy), for showing on the American TV channels. At that point the channels could not handle HD, and the result looked disappointing to many. Thus it appears that the old VHS TV captures are all the fans have in 2020. Not ideal, with the sumptuous costumes being an especially regrettable loss — they get smudged into down into a dark haze. But it’s quite watchable, especially so if you can use real-time playback filters to slightly boost sharpness, saturation, contrast etc. A very fractious set of investors apparently prevent any new HD release in the 2020s, with the HD masters presumably crumbling away in a vault somewhere.
Starlog #287 (2001) has the best extended magazine article on the series and what it was trying to do.
What do we have coming up in terms of cinema movies in 2020? In order of appearance through the year, my interest is tweaked by…
Underwater. Sci-fi underwater horror. Appears to be an Alien/Abyss re-tread, but it might be more inventive than that.
The Color out of Space. Major modern adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft story.
Come Away. British fantasy drama apparently combining Alice in Wonderland with Peter Pan. Has a big-name British cast, although past experience suggests that’s not always a guarantee of success with such things. They can tend to be rather more ‘worthy’ than entertaining, and the child-actor casting can often go badly wrong (e.g. Nesbit’s Five Children and It in the 2004 movie version).
The Call of the Wild. Jack London’s doggy wilderness epic, seemingly done straight. A lot will depend on how convincing the CG is, as there’s going to be a heck of a lot of fur.
The Invisible Man. The title grabs me, but the movie turns out to be a “very loose” and modernised semi-adaptation ‘domestic abuse horror’ movie of the famous ‘early Wells’ science-fiction tale.
Onward. Teen heavy-metal urban-fantasy animation from Pixar.
The New Mutants. Another and apparently the “final” X-Men franchise movie. It can’t be worse than the last, can it? But we may be surprised.
Antlers. A ‘scary deer’ horror? Another 2020 movie, Antebellum, is apparently a ‘scary butterflies’ horror. I’m sensing a trend here. I wonder if the Welsh Film Fund would be interested in my old screenplay Sheep: the blood-baaaath?
Green Knight. Based on the famous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Artemis Fowl. Disney movie version of the books about a “12 year old master criminal” who does things like make supercomputers with stolen fairy technology. Apparently hugely popular among those born after 1990, and most likely to be appreciated by the under-14s and nostalgic 20-somethings. [Update: released, but apparently an utterly awful disaster]
BIOS. Unknown Tom Hanks sci-fi thriller, probably involving computer hackers and AI.
Morbius, the Living Vampire. A movie outing for one of Marvel’s supernatural/superhero characters. Likely to be middling summer fare, akin to the first Ghost Rider movie. I’d guess it may feed into a bigger spring 2022 Doctor Strange movie, which is said to have a strong Lovecraftian slant?
Monster Hunter. Apparently loosely based on a videogame. Probably just a mindless summer action romp.
The King’s Man. A Kingsman prequel movie. Looks like a very interesting start to the Autumn/Fall, and a welcome alternative to James Bond now that the November 2020 Bond appears to have gone the same way as Doctor Who.
The Witches. The Roald Dahl book, apparently given a “dark” adaptation for the “young adult” crowd — but the Guillermo del Toro screenplay promises quality for Halloween.
The Eternals. The first in Marvel’s hoped-for new mega-verse of movies, and based on the fondly-remembered space-gods comics series by Jack Kirby. It’ll be interesting to see how much they Kirby-ize the look of the movie, if at all, re: the possibility of blending film with the kind of toon-tech that brought us the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Dune. Another try at filming the famous science-fiction epic. Apparently this will only cover the first half of the first book, so presumably they anticipate a six or seven movie series if successful. Said to be visually ambitious in scale but twisting the story into politically-correct shapes. While you’re waiting, try the audiobooks.
The Croods 2. The first was a great bit of pure animated-comedy entertainment set in an amusing Stone Age, if rather forgettable after a few weeks. But I’d be up for more of that, provided they don’t pack it with eco-preaching.
Uncharted. A December movie and a spin-off from the videogame series, which features many ‘Lost City’ type settings in jungles and deserts. The December timing suggests quality. A lot will depend on how well they can mix machine-guns with mystery. I’d imagine that adding a slight Lovecraftian twist would suit the settings, and what are said to be ‘supernatural relics’, widening up the appeal of the movie version beyond the Indiana Jones crowd?
The Tomorrow War. Alien invasion meets time-travel, via military sci-fi. Again, the December slot inspires hope for some quality.
There’s no sign of the second ‘Young Tolkien’ bio-pic in the 2020 lists. Two were said to be filming, but only one has been released. There’s also no sign of the mooted adaptation of the early H.G. Wells horror The Island of Doctor Moreau.
“H.P. Lovecraft Trilogy Being Planned by the Makers of ‘Color Out of Space’”, reports the movie-making world’s media. The news arises from an interview with… “SpectreVision’s Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah” who want… “at least three of them”. They have the obvious choice of The Dunwich Horror in the “early stages” of development, for a… “Lovecraft adaptation that truly capture[s] cosmic dread without the camp”. Sounds good, but it’s also said to be likely to be set in the near-future, and will have the inevitable political “messaging” that seems inescapable these days.
Murray Ewing reviews the new documentary feature-film Memory: The Origins of Alien (Alien = the original movie) and offers a thoughtful emphasis on H.P. Lovecraft’s contributions.