director Daniel Haller
Five years out from his directorial premiere (1965’s Die, Monster, Die!), Daniel Haller returned to the H.P. Lovecraftian well with The Dunwich Horror. While Lovecraft aficionados disdained his earlier “adaptation” of “The Colour Out of Space” as having very little to do with the source material, his later return, while sticking a bit more closely to its original story, Haller modernized and relocated the action in 1960’s California hippie culture.
Starring Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley, and Sandra Dee, it’s been filtered through Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and the post-Manson era of the freak-out of new age psychedelic devil worship. Backed by a strange Les Baxter score, The Dunwich Horror is a bad acid trip of a flick.
The FX are particularly psychedelic, and moderately effective, if incredibly cheap (this was a Roger Corman production, after all). Wildly-painted, free-loving, nudist hippies could cause the kinds of flashbacks of horror that Dee’s character envisions, not just be the flashbacks. Watching this movie, you can see why people would grow to think that Lovecraft was unfilmable.
I watched this back-to-back with Haller’s Die, Monster, Die! (it seemed like a good double feature), but if anything it counted against this later film by contrast perhaps more than it would have just on its own. Not at all uninteresting, it seems still a misguided effort, perhaps a would-be emblem of its time.