Summer’s End Review: The Dunwich Horror (1970)

“Why don’t you take this copy of The Necronomicon and return it to the library?”–Professor Armitage

We have one final Summer Weekend Review for 2017: the notoriously trippy 1970 adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft tale.

The equinox is here.

We begin our October countdown in two weeks.

Title: The Dunwich Horror

Director: Daniel Haller
Writers: Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, and Ronald Silkosky
Adapted from the short story by H.P. Lovecraft

Sandra Dee as Nancy Wagner
Dean Stockwell as Wilbur Whateley
Ed Begley as Dr. Henry Armitage
Lloyd Bochner as Dr. Cory
Sam Jaffe as Old Whateley
Joanne Moore Jordan as Lavinia Whateley
Donna Baccala s Elizabeth Hamilton
Talia Shire as Nurse Cora
Michael Fox as Dr. Raskin
Jason Wingreen as Sheriff Harrison
Barboura Morris as Mrs. Cole
Beach Dickerson as Mr. Cole
Toby Russ as Librarian


One of Dr. Armitage’s students becomes involved with the Whateley family, who have more than their fair share of dark secrets, and a a problematic lineage.

High Points:

The cast does well with a script that, at times, must have challenged their dedication to their craft. Peter Fonda turned down the part of Whately; Dean Stockwell took the role, and he manages to be chilling without becoming parodic.

Low Point:

I expect some dated elements in a 1970 adaptation of Lovecraft, but those hallucinogenic optical effects? Sheesh. They feel like outtakes from a 1968 student-made head film.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The film takes Lovecraft’s basic story, and then adds 70s occult trappings, with the subtlety we expect from Roger Corman’s studios.

Effects: 2/6 The practical effects are passable; the trippy optical effects I have already addressed.

Acting: 5/6 The film assembles a remarkable cast, including Sandra Dee after her career as a teen sensation, Dean Stockwell between his heyday as a child star and his future in genre TV, Talia Shire before The Godfather and Rocky, Sam Jaffe, in his ongoing career as a character actor, and Ed Begley (Senior) in his final role.

Production: 4/6

Story: 4/6 Blending Lovecraftian mythos with Love-in era occultism has something to recommend it, but this film doesn’t find the right balance. The story moves along; the ending is a bit of a mess.

Emotional Response: 3/6

Overall: 4/6

In total, The Dunwich Horror receives 24/42