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The Complete Lovecraft Filmography
Charles P. Mitchell
Greenwood hardcover £62.50

review by Tony Lee

Author Charles Mitchell tackles a subject long overdue for serious study, and the result is this fine companion volume to the recently published An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz (also from Greenwood Press). The Complete Lovecraft Filmography adds a welcome media studies book to the ever-growing library of scholarly texts about the most influential writer of science fictional horror stories ever.
   Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos provides the rich source of material for a wholly unique brand of fantastic cinema, but has been neglected by non-genre critics (or simply ignored in academic circles) because screen versions of HPL stories are often viewed as nothing more than B-movies, or worse. Mitchell is clearly aware of the problems of artistic merit for 'Cthulhu cinema', and addresses this significant issue throughout the book, pointing out the difficulties in generating a suitably Gothic atmosphere or realising the monstrous visions required for HPL adaptations, on the restrictive budgets of genre films.
   Mitchell identifies nearly 70 films with Lovecraftian elements, but the book's main text has in-depth A-Z coverage of just 33 of the most relevant titles. Each entry includes an annotated cast list, commentary on the acting and characterisations, a synopsis and analysis of the plot, and review of the production's 'fidelity to Lovecraft'. The Haunted Palace (1963) is rightly promoted as the first authentic HPL adaptation, despite the fact that its title is from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Other key HPL films are the excellent TV movie Cast A Deadly Spell (1991), Daniel Haller's seminal The Dunwich Horror (1969), John Carpenter's underrated In The Mouth Of Madness (1995), modern horror classic Re-Animator, Sam Raimi's grimly humorous Evil Dead trilogy, and cult success The Unnameable II (1992), a sequel that's actually better than its predecessor.
   Surprisingly, Mitchell does not rate Necronomicon (1994) very highly, but I think it's one of the best HPL movies yet. And, sadly, Mitchell omits Akio Jissoji's imaginative Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis, and Mariano Baino's brooding Dark Waters (1993), but his book is, nonetheless, wholly comprehensive with regard to films that are directly linked to HPL stories, while rather more selective concerning films that merely appropriate Lovecraftian lore, themes and images.
Complete H.P. Lovecraft Filmography

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