As an avid enthusiast for the works of cult Providence, Rhode Island science fiction and horror pioneer H.P. (Howard Phillips) Lovecraft, I would be one of the first to say that a lot of work that claims to be based on or inspired by the early 20th century antiquarian are, sadly, disappointing. As most all of his work published in the early pulps like Weird Tales are, in those edits, public domain, his name is attached to a lot of projects that seem more interested in the marketing angle of the name than really trying to bring his unique brand of cosmic horror to life. There have, of course, been worthy attempts like John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness, Dan O’Bannon’s The Resurrected, or even Stuart Gordon’s landmark cult breakthrough Re-Animator, which did a good job keeping the morbid, over-the-top black humor of Lovecraft’s original tale, “Herbert West: Re-Animator,” despite incorporate sexual elements Lovecraft would have found embarrassing and infuriating. The dreck, though, seems to clutter quickly when one submits him-or-herself to lackluster genre offerings like Necronomicon, The Unnamable, the “nice try but ruined by its own insistence on sexually exploitative material” second Gordon offering From Beyond, and a godawful 1970 “adaptation” of “The Dunwich Horror,” starring Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee, among many, many others.
But, rather than focus on H.P.L.H.S.’s excellent expansion into filmmaking, I’d like to rewind a bit and talk about some of their prior work – namely, their excellent Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series.
As the films that came later serve as stylized representations of antiquated media presentation types, Dark Adventure Radio Theatre does the same, only in their case, the outmoded media is early 20th century radio drama. As such, the presentation is in most every way flawless and will be a particular joy to fans of old school radio dramatization: the sound of a radio tuning in the show, old fashioned heavy bravado theme music, a host, and even a series of hilarious fake cigarette advertisements grace each release.
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre initially ended up with four episodes before H.P.L.H.S. turned their sights toward the Call of Cthulhu film, each adapting a Lovecraft tale as a period radio drama. The first, and my personal favorite, is a simply amazing, transfixing adaptation of Lovecraft’s epic and ambitious sci-fi novella At The Mountains Of Madness. Following that came the equally enjoyable and excellently produced adaptations of The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and The Shadow Out Of Time. All of these stories have been adapted to fit into an hour’s runtime, which may surprise many familiar with Lovecraft’s fiction, but it’s worth remembering that the good ol’ Providence gentleman… well, he could spend two-to-four hundred words describing the countryside and old houses alone. H.P.L.H.S. finds a great medium between the author’s atmospherics and the listener’s need for the tale to move forward, and it’s hard to think any but the most die-hard purists will find these adaptations unsatisfactory.
Now, for some great news: H.P.L.H.S. has new episodes in the works as I write. Already they’ve released an adaptation of The Call Of Cthulhu and, according to their site, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward and Herbert West – Reanimator are in the works.
The original four releases and The Call Of Cthulhu are all available via the H.P.L.H.S. online store via CD or MP3 download – and, if you would like, you can buy a boxed set of the first four release CD’s. The CD box is fashioned after a “ye olde tyme” radio. Those interested should head right on over to the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society store and treat themselves to some Lovecraft done right for a change.