The Films of H. P. Lovecraft

Mar 27, 2015 by

Whisperer in DarknessWhisperer in DarknessWhisperer in DarknessHoward Phillips Lovecraft’s fiction has been adapted numerous times to film, often badly. Most of the efforts to transform the horror master’s prose to the silver screen have yielded far more groans than screams of terror. The best known motion picture to be inspired by Lovecraft’s work is probably Stuart Gordon’s cult favorite, RE-ANIMATOR, a horror-comedy loosely based on the author’s “Herbert West–Reanimator,” a story originally serialized in HOME BREW in 1922. Gordon’s film, released in 1985, went on to gross nearly three-million dollars and was followed by a pair of sequels–BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1990) and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003).

Although financially successful, devoted fans of the author have called Gordon’s film “a desecration of Lovecraft.” Even the film’s admirers, such as Curt Holman in PASTE MAGAZINE, have labeled it “not Lovecrafty.” Holman writes, “RE-ANIMATOR more closely resembles a zombie film than Lovecraft’s signature brand of occult sci-fi.”

It was left to an organization devoted to the live-action role-playing game CTHULHU LIVES, to create two of the most faithful adaptations of the work of H. P. Lovecraft. In 2005, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society released THE CALL OF CTHULHU, a silent movie based on the story, originally published in WEIRD TALES in 1928, that introduced the author’s most famous creation, Cthulhu. Filmed by Andrew Leman and Sean Branney, with cinematography by David Robertson, THE CALL OF CTHULHU was an official selection at more than thirty international film festivals and winner of numerous awards.

In 2011, the Society followed with an adaptation of Lovecraft’s THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS, a masterful blending of horror and science fiction that originally ran in the August 1931 issue of WEIRD TALES. With Branney and Leman again collaborating with David Robertson, THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS ran in selected theaters nationwide and was again screened at film festivals across the globe.  Mirroring the style of such classic horror films of the 1930s as DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, and KING KONG, this entertaining film features an “atmosphere of barely-controlled hysteria.”

As part of its celebration of the 125th anniversary of H. P. Lovecraft’s birth and his relationship with WEIRD TALES, the leading supernatural fiction magazine of its time, PulpFest 2015 is very pleased to offer fully authorized showings of both THE CALL OF CTHULHU and THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS. The films will be respectively shown on Friday, August 14th and Saturday, August 15th, beginning at 11:30 PM. Each will be paired with an episode from ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY that originally aired in 1971–“Cool Air” and “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture.”

To thank the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society for their generosity in allowing us to exhibit their films, PulpFest has offered to help the organization with a couple of research projects.

Other than her collaborations “The Curse of Yig,” “Medusa’s Coil,” and “The Mound,” the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society is looking for copies of any pulp stories published by Zealia Brown Reed Bishop. It is thought that she had a number of stories published, probably in romantically inclined pulps, and most likely credited to Zealia Reed or Zealia Bishop, depending on the year in which they were published.

Andrew Leman recently explored a trove of letters from Lovecraft to Bishop, in which he names a number of her manuscripts on which he had worked. Click here for a list of their working titles. Some of these stories may have never been published or they may have appeared under other titles. Zealia’s last name was Reed when she was writing these stories, and she didn’t marry Mr. Bishop until later in life. So if any of these stories were published, it probably would have been under the name Zealia Reed or Zealia Brown Reed. The stories are not weird tales or science fiction, but domestic or love fiction.

Additionally, the Society is seeking high quality scans of any advertisements placed in WEIRD TALES by H. P. Lovecraft for his services as a revisionist. It is thought that one ad appeared in the August 1928 number of “The Unique Magazine,” but there were probably others published at an earlier date.

(If you are able to help with either of these projects, please contact Andrew Leman at leman@cthulhulives.org or Sean Branney at branney@cthulhulives.org. To view a trailer of THE CALL OF CTHULHU, click here. To view a trailer of THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS, click here. The one-sheet, pictured above, is copyright 2015 by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.)