The Dunwich Horror (1970)

Genres - Horror, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror  |   Release Date - Jan 14, 1970 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Patrick Legare

Having covered their share of Edgar Allen Poe's works, Roger Corman and the American International Pictures team attempted to tackle H.P. Lovecraft with decidedly mixed results. Back as far as 1966, the film had been considered a project for Mario Bava with Boris Karloff (in the Sam Jaffe role) and Christopher Lee (in the Ed Begley role) headlining the cast, but that dream project never came to fruition. Everything about the film -- the performers, the hair styles, the psychedelic imagery, the music -- has late-'60s tackiness written all over it, which leaves it very dated and not very Lovecraftian. Filmed in California just after the Manson murders, The Dunwich Horror has more than a passing resemblance to those horrifying crimes. Dean Stockwell's lead character in particular strikes of a magnetic Charles Manson-like personality whose off-kilter beliefs lead him to attempt murder. The thin premise -- Sandra Dee is drawn to a stranger (Stockwell) who wants to use her as a ritual sacrifice -- leaves but one thing to look forward to: the monster in the upstairs room. Unfortunately, director Daniel Haller fails to deliver any payoff in an extremely lame climax that reveals the creature to be a hard-to-see Sigmond and the Sea Monsters-type of beast. Stockwell makes an interesting villain except when he's reciting lengthy spells that drag on far too long. Sandra Dee is a casting horror, but she makes it easy to see why Stockwell's character would want to sacrifice her. Director Haller started under Corman, for whom he directed the previous Lovecraft adaptation Die, Monster, Die!, and went on to become a very successful television director, including such shows as Kojak, Charlie's Angels, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. Most copies now in release are the full-length 88-minute cut, but beware of shorter prints that cut out some minor nude scenes.