Color, 1970, 87 mins. 51 secs.
Directed by Daniel Haller
Starring Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley, Lloyd Bochner, Donna Baccala, Joanne Moore Jordan, Sam Jaffe
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Wicked Vision (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Though often The Dunwich Horrorpromoted as a Satanic thriller in the vein of Rosemary's Baby, this second The Dunwich HorrorH.P. Lovecraft adaptation from art director turned auteur Daniel Haller (Die, Monster, Die!) is actually another intriguing if imperfect attempt to capture the unimaginable, cosmic gods of Lovecraft's literature on film. While the placement of giggling good girl Sandra Dee in such a setting could have been disastrous, she actually makes a fairly credible horror heroine floating through a woozy brew of psychedelia laced with Gothic excess.

Vaguely creepy Wilbur Whately (Stockwell) appears at Miskatonic University to raid the archives for the Necronomicon, a tome containing details and summoning instructions for an ancient race of gods known as the Old Ones. Lovely student Nancy (Dee) also catches Wilbur's eye, though not for reasons one might suspect; in fact, he attempts to steal the book and plans to use Nancy in a recreation of a ritual which led to Wilbur's supernaturally tainted birth. Meanwhile Wilbur's unseen twin brother, locked up within the confines of the Whately estate, becomes increasingly impatient for the arrival of its creators, and Nancy's decision to accompany Wilbur to the less than hospitable hometown of Dunwich results in a stormy, violent finale which finds our warlock anti-hero facing off against the resourceful Dr. Armitage (Begley), the only man capable of halting Wilbur's occult rituals.

More of a visual artist than an assured storyteller, Haller imbues Dunwich with a strong, off-kilter atmosphere of ancient evil seeping within the very stones and earth of New England, perhaps in a manner even more palpable than that of his mentor, Roger Corman (who stayed on as executive producer). Even Corman's regular composer, Les Baxter, turns up to provide an insanely catchy music score, most memorably accompanied by The Dunwich Horroranimated opening credits. The film The Dunwich Horroralso earned some belated significance as an early co-writing credit for a young Curtis Hanson, who would later go on to Oscar glory with L.A. Confidential (and write and direct the ultra-sleazy Sweet Kill). This film received a divided response at the time, though it fared better than the flawed The Shuttered Room and the adorably goofy The Crimson Cult; curiously, Lovecraft would prove to be a more comfortable on TV right after this with multiple episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Lovecraft adaptations for the big screen seemed to become extinct for several years until Stuart Gordon injected new life with his delirious Re-Animator, which ushered in a brief but welcome new renaissance.

Originally rated M and re-rated PG under the new MPAA system, The Dunwich Horror made its first video appearance in a murky, open matte transfer from Embassy. Those cheaply produced tapes didn't last on most shelves for very long, but perhaps it was all for the best. When the rights passed over to MGM, the studio released a VHS edition in 2001 which, as first detailed in Video Watchdog magazine, contained a minute of previously unseen footage trimmed before the film's theatrical run. Consisting of various female nude shots (including a partially undraped Dee that screams "body double," though the dubious MGM "Fun Facts" on the box claim it was really her), the restored footage made this one of the more collectible titles at the time. Fortunately the extended version (with a new R rating) remained intact on the MGM DVD soon after sporting the first widescreen presentation in any format. The disc also includes the original The Dunwich HorrorAIP theatrical trailer, which indicates what a tough sell this The Dunwich Horrormovie was back in 1970.

Scream Factory issued the first Blu-ray of this film in 2016 as a double feature with Gordon Hessler's Murders in the Rue Morgue; the uncut version is still intact here (with a "Rated M" card at the beginning) with extras including the trailer and an audio commentary by Steve Haberman focusing on the Lovecraft source material and the turn of the decade AIP, as well as some bits scripted or shot for the film that didn't make the final cut. That release went out of print a few years later and started commanding insane amounts of money online, but a couple of options eventually came along. In 2021, Wicked Vision released a dual-format mediabook from the same scan featuring two German-language commentaries (with Jörg Kopetz first, then Dr. Rolf Giesen and Dr. Gerd Naumann), a Trailers from Hell presentation with Darren Bousman, the German VHS credits, a "Deutsche Nostalgie-VHS-Fassung" of the old open matte version in SD, the trailer, and a gallery.

Arrow Video stepped in with a 2022 standalone Blu-ray of the film featuring a new 2K restoration from the camera negative (working from a 4K scan), with a crisp DTS-HD MA 1.0 English mono track with optional English SDH subtitles. The transfer doesn't look dramatically different but has some variations, featuring a bit less yellow throughout (resulting in more natural flesh tones) and slightly tighter framing (mostly on the bottom). The plentiful grain also looks a bit more natural in motion. A new commentary by Arkham County audio drama creators Guy Adams and Alexandra Benedict is more of a free-form riff on the The Dunwich HorrorfilmThe Dunwich Horror with a sometimes giggly podcast approach, focusing a lot on Lovecraft and touching on Haller, the apparently contentious pronunciation of Dunwich, the ingredients of capturing the writer's flavor on film, and... lots of sex jokes. "The Door into Dunwich" (130m13s) is an absolutely terrific feature-length extra which, long story short, features Arrow bringing together online buddies Stephen R. Bissette and Stephen Laws for an engaging Zoom chat covering pretty much everything about this film, Haller, Hanson, and Lovecraft imaginable, with several other horror fiction grace notes thrown in as well. The time really flies by, and they make for great company. In "After Summer After Winter" (16m21s), science fiction and fantasy writer Ruthanna Emrys dives deep into the Lovecraft mythos which has since spawned a significant cult cottage industry, as well as its impact on her own writing with its indescribable interdimensional creatures brushing horrifically against the fabric of our existence. "The Sound of Cosmic Terror" (32m6s) is another welcome and thorough musical analysis from David Huckvale, who gets to pry apart the mechanics of Les Baxter's score including its ties to his earlier exotica and AIP work as well as the influence of psychedelia as a means to express the supernatural terrors of the story. He even works a little Handel in there, too. The usual theatrical trailer is included, plus a 34-image gallery including several production shots. The packaging also features reversible cover art (with a new design by Luke Preece) and a booklet in the first pressing with essays by Johnny Mains and Jack Sargeant.

Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

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Scream Factory (Blu-ray)

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Updated review on December 29, 2022.