From the Dark
December 25, 2009 7:51 PM   Subscribe

The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast talks to director Stuart Gordon about Herbert West - Reanimator (part 1, part 2). A prolific director, Gordon is responsible for some of the better adaptations of Lovecraft's work (and From Beyond). Currently he is directing Reanimator star Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe in the one-man shoe Nevermore, which just finished a hugely successful run in LA and is now heading for Poe's hometown of Baltimore.
posted by Artw (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
one-man shoe Nevermore

Is that non-Euclidean cordwainery?

I had no idea this existed... subscribed! Thanks for reminding me about that Masters of Horror episode ("better" link)--I've been meaning to that. From Beyond and especially Dagon are guilty, guilty pleasures.
posted by Decimask at 8:03 PM on December 25, 2009

one-man shoe Nevermore


From Beyond and especially Dagon are guilty, guilty pleasures.

There shouldn't be anything guilty about Dagon, it's by far the best Shadow over Innsmouth adaptation there is.
posted by Artw at 8:06 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

No argument there, but man, some of the lines: [spanish accent]"You are my brother... you will be my lover!"[/spanish accent]

Sadly, I only have a VHS copy, so I can't watch it. Must re-acquire...
posted by Decimask at 8:09 PM on December 25, 2009

[this is a great podcast!]
posted by Decimask at 8:12 PM on December 25, 2009

I also am in the camp that will always look favorably upon the Dagon flick. If for no other reason than the exchange:

Angrily: "Fuck Dagon!"
Enthusiastic support: "Yes! Fuck Dagon!"

Also related, one of the neatest gifts I got were two books of four abridged Poe stories each, wonderfully illustrated by Gris Grimly.
posted by Drastic at 8:28 PM on December 25, 2009

Dagon is played very straight, but it is a comedy. My favorite scene is when Ezra Godden tries to escape the cultists by doing what ever movie hero does: He gets into a car and reaches beneath the steering column to hotwire it, pulling free two wires, which he then presses together.

And the car's horn goes off, causing the cultists to turn and start staggering toward the car.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:22 PM on December 25, 2009

...I liked "From Beyond".
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:52 PM on December 25, 2009

Gordon also directed Edmond, from David Mamet's screenplay based on his play. It's not a genre film but is horrific.
posted by cazoo at 10:09 PM on December 25, 2009

Just came across this, which seems apropos:

The C Programming Language
Brian W Kernighan & Dennis M Ritchie & HP Lovecraft

posted by jewzilla at 10:16 PM on December 25, 2009 [7 favorites]

I've seen both Dagon and From Beyond, like in the past couple of months.

From Beyond is not a great adaptation of Lovecraft anything. I'm sure the gentleman from Providence would have disowned it from the bondage gear scene alone.

Dagon probably is the best film adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth there is, but that isn't saying much. The ending is nice at least, but there are several problematic bits in the middle, like poor ol' Zadoc being flayed alive while reciting the Lord's Prayer. And there are the laugh-inducing shocks involving ol' Fish Girl's mouth, first filled with jagged teeth, then with several very long tentacles. I don't see how anyone can find that second one anything but funny, which lends credence to AZ's statement about it being a comedy.

What I don't get is why no director (who isn't directly employed by the HPLHS) seems to think they can't adapt Lovecraft straight? Lovecraft usually keeps his big monsties off-screen for a good while to build up tension, maybe that's why? But it's also because the audience, whether a reader or a viewer, has to be prepared for a good horror monster, especially these days now that some people (myself included, unfortunately) have become conditioned to laugh when monsters appear on screen. That is because monsters are weird enough to trigger the humor reflex by themselves, but when the viewer has been brought down by creepy details before the monster has been seen, the baddie will be a lot more effective when he does show up.

A straight adaptation of Lovecraft would be awash in those details, but they seem to be the kinds of things movie adaptations of his work are unwilling to provide.
posted by JHarris at 3:08 AM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

> Lovecraft usually keeps his big monsties off-screen for a good while to build up tension, maybe that's why?

Paranormal Activity gives me hope.
posted by Decimask at 4:21 AM on December 26, 2009

There shouldn't be anything guilty about Dagon, it's by far the best Shadow over Innsmouth adaptation there is.

Well, apart from Fishmen.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:57 AM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

I liked Out of Mind as a Lovecraft film. Not really an adaption, but it shows affection for his work and manages moments of genuine pathos. I wouldn't call it scary, but there are some creepy moments, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:09 AM on December 26, 2009

Combs and Gordon presenting Poe right here in Baltimore? *sigh* This is another one of those things that makes me wish I owned money.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:11 AM on December 26, 2009

Does the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast take requests? How about this one? Maybe some of these?

Who else is both admired by intellectuals and an author of works such as the above? Why does HPL get a pass that nobody else does?
posted by eccnineten at 8:42 AM on December 26, 2009

posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on December 26, 2009

Does the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast take requests? How about this one? Maybe some of these?

They've addressed Lovecraft's racism and other assorted bigotries in several episodes, most notably the one on the truly execrable story "The Street," and they didn't let him off with the canard about his views being typical for the time.

Also, off the top of my head: Pound, Celine, De Sade, Wyndham Lewis and several others held views that were reprehensible in at least select periods of their lives, even given the mores of their time periods. Hemingway and Joseph Campbell were both anti-semites by some accounts. Wagner absolutely was one. Anton Webern was a voluntary and loyal member member of the Nazi party, as were Hans Heinz Ewers and several other worthwhile artists. William S. Burroughs wrote some appallingly misogynistic pieces in the sixties (The Job has some sterling examples, and no, they were not all written for shock and effect). Foucault and Hakim Bey have both been accused of justifying pedophilia, though I don't know either's work well enough to say how justified the claims are.

So, lots. Lovecraft isn't unique in "getting a pass," and in fact he doesn't.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:55 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not really sure he's really looking for an actual answer there.

Oh, and the excercises on that C programming link are excellent.

Write a function reverse(s) which reverses the string s by turning the mind inside out, converting madness into reality and opening the door to allow the Old Ones to creep forth once more from their sunken crypt beyond time.
posted by Artw at 4:59 PM on December 26, 2009

If anyone has the opportunity to see Nevermore and they're not sure if they should, I hope that you'll take my endorsement of it. I say it at Center for Inquiry West in Los Angeles, and it was fantastic. It's run was repeatedly extended, because it was selling out night after night. Even after they raised the ticket price, people were going nuts for it. Combs manages to be scary and hilarious and heartbreaking all in the space of about five minutes.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 5:22 PM on December 26, 2009

Why does HPL get a pass that nobody else does?

Let's see. Lovecraft was a racist who wrote some very nasty things, and who also dug into that nasty pit to write some very scary stories that play on many of the 20th Century's anxieties. Since a) someone ends up asking your question and b) someone else ends up giving my response every time Lovecraft is mentioned on MeFi, I feel safe in saying that he doesn't get a pass, at least not here.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:56 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe a little off topic, but I met Jeffrey Combs (who played Herbert West in the Re-Animator trilogy) at a little independent movie theater here in Arizona. I took him a drawing I'd made inspired by his role in the movie and he signed it for me.

He was absolutely one of the nicest people I've ever met.
posted by Bageena at 8:07 PM on December 27, 2009

Lentrohamsanin: best answer yet to that question I've seen - thanks.
posted by eccnineten at 12:14 PM on December 28, 2009

Kenneth Hites Tour De Lovecraft has a nice bit on reanimator, also on the web here:

"Reanimator" is one of the earlier uses of (I would argue) a good fictional trait fairly specific to HPL -- the exercise of Lovecraftian philosophy, by a Lovecraft character, ends in disaster. (Imagine an Ayn Rand novel in which the selfish, brilliant protagonist dies hated, miserable, impoverished, and alone. Or, to bring it down a notch, a Robert E. Howard story where the proud barbarian is tricked by the wily city folk and winds up exhibited in a zoo or pulling a manure cart for a plantation.) Herbert West, like Lovecraft, believes that life is purely chemical -- and demonstrates that belief, and inevitably loses not only his life (in gruesome fashion) but earlier, his scientific mind as well (replacing it with "mere morbid and ghoulish curiosity"). Lovecraft regularly kills his Mary Sues, often for the crime of believing what Lovecraft believes. Not always -- Randolph Carter survives where Charles Dexter Ward doesn't (although Joshi argues fairly convincingly that both those novels are conscious epilogues to previous Lovecraftian aesthetics) -- but more often than not.

posted by Artw at 5:56 PM on January 10, 2010

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