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Daniel Haller
Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley
Writing Credits:
Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, Ronald Silkosky

Wilbur Whateley travels to the Arkham Miskatonic University to borrow the legendary Necronomicon. Little does anyone know that Whateley isn't quite human.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 1/10/2023

• Audio Commentary with Audio Drama Creators Guy Adams and AK Benedict
• “The Door into Dunwich” Documentary
• “After Summer After Winter” Featurette
• “The Sound of Cosmic Terror” Featurette
• Trailer
• Image Gallery


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-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Dunwich Horror [Blu-Ray] (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 27, 2022)

Back in 1928, HP Lovecraft published a horror novella entitled The Dunwich Horror. More than 40 years later, this tale leapt to the big screen via a 1970 film of the same name.

At Arkham University in Miskatonic, Massachusetts, Dr. Henry Armitage (Ed Begley) displays a copy of the Necronomicon. Also known as the “Book of the Dead”, this tome attracts the attention of a young man named Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell).

Wilbur manages to obtain the book and he also entices Armitage’s assistant Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) back to his home. There he drugs her and uses her for some sinister plans related to the Necronomicon, as he attempts to use it to summon malevolent beings.

If nothing else, Dunwich comes with an intriguing cast. In addition to Dee, Stockwell and Begley, we find “names” like Lloyd Bochner, Sam Jaffe and a very young Talia Shire – still billed by her birth name of “Coppola”.

Director Daniel Haller went on to an undistinguished career that mostly revolved around fairly mediocre TV series, but Dunwich offers a then-unknown talent as co-writer. The film marked the cinematic debut of Curtis Hanson, later to earn plaudits for movies such as LA Confidential.

The “names” in the cast and Hanson’s involvement allowed me to hope Dunwich might provide a film a cut above the standard low-budget exploitation fare. Unfortunately, the end result proves dull and wholly lacking in drama.

Not that Haller and company don’t work overtime to give us the creeps. With its overtly spooky score and plenty of hallucinatory visuals, Dunwich tries very hard to frighten the viewers.

However, none of this seems anything other than tedious. It doesn’t help that Dunwich comes across as the overt Rosemary’s Baby ripoff it is.

Of course, the Lovecraft story at the core of Dunwich predates the 1967 Ira Levin novel at the heart of Baby by nearly four decades. Nonetheless, it quickly becomes abundantly clear that Dunwich used the 1968 Roman Polanski classic as its inspiration, as the two feel awful similar in many ways.

Too bad Dunwich can’t generate a fraction of the impact found with the Polanski movie. As hard as Dunwich works to give us a frightening supernatural thriller, the end product remains stagnant and dull.

It doesn’t help that the movie telegraphs all its “scary” elements. From Stockwell’s comically “creepy” performance to the aforementioned mix of trippy visuals and overtly “spooky” score, the whole package lacks subtlety and just seems silly.

Dee also feels utterly miscast in what we’ll refer to as the Mia Farrow part. Always known as the virginal “good girl” – as so memorably mocked via a musical number in Grease - Dee shows the personality of a wet sponge, and she can’t convey any of the role’s needed charm or sexuality.

All of this leaves Dunwich as a flat stab at horror. Despite some potential positives, the end result fails to go anywhere.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Dunwich Horror appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not without flaws, this was a more than watchable image.

For the most part, sharpness appeared fine. While the movie lacked terrific delineation, it usually seemed pretty accurate, and only a few moderately soft shots materialized.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no intrusive edge haloes. Grain felt natural, but sporadic examples of small specks cropped up at times.

Colors tended toward a bit of a brown bias, but more vivid tones emerged as well. These gave the hues a fair amount of pep and range.

Blacks were fairly deep and dense, while low-light shots boasted reasonable clarity. Nothing here dazzled, but the result appeared fine for the movie’s vintage and budget.

The flick’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack also showed the restrictions related to the movie’s age, but it still worked fairly well. Speech usually seemed fairly natural, though the lines occasionally became a bit reedy.

Effects failed to present much life, but they lacked problematic distortion. While the music didn’t boast great vivacity, the score and songs still showed decent pep. This was an acceptable soundtrack for an old genre flick.

As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from Guy Adams and AK Benedict, creators of the “audio drama” Arkham County. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the life and work of HP Lovecraft, the movie’s source and adaptation, cast and crew, and their thoughts about the film.

Sporadically, Benedict and Adams offer some decent notes, especially when they look at the Lovecraft side of things. However, they often just discuss their feelings about the movie and don’t tell us much of substance, so this becomes a lackluster track at best.

Some video programs follow, and The Door Into Dunwich offers a chat between film historian Stephen R. Bissette and horror author Stephen Laws. In this two-hour, 10-minute, 13-second piece, they discuss their early interest in Lovecraft and the genre, the slow path Dunwich took to the screen, cast and crew, production elements, and general thoughts.

Bissette does most of the heavy lifting here, especially in terms of concrete film information. Abetted by research from historian Tom Weaver, Bissette gives us the majority of the commentary and most of the useful information.

“Door” takes a while to get off the ground, as the two men spend too much time at the start with reflections of their youthful movie experiences. However, once Bissette launches into production history and genre domains, this becomes a pretty solid discussion.

After Summer, After Winter goes for 16 minutes, 21 seconds and delivers material from sci-fi/fantasy writer Ruthanna Emrys.

She gets into Dunwich as well as Lovecraft and some mythological elements. “Summer” provides a good take on these topics.

Next comes The Sound of Cosmic Terror, a 32-minute, six-second discussion with film/music historian David Huckvale. He gets into the movie’s composer and score to make this a fairly informative piece.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we conclude with an image gallery. It presents 33 stills that mix ads, production photos and publicity shots. Expect a decent compilation.

Even with some talent involved, The Dunwich Horror fails to turn into a memorable thriller. The movie feels derivative and devoid of any scares or drama. The Blu-ray offers generally positive picture and audio as well as a mix of bonus features. Though not a terrible movie, Dunwich just can’t get off the ground.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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