The Dunwich Horror (1970)
"The Dunwich Horror" is based loosely on the short story 'The Dunwich Horror '
The film opens at the fictional Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, where Dr. Henry Armitage (Begley) has just finished a lecture on the local history and the very rare and priceless Necronomicon. He gives the book to his student Nancy Wagner (Dee) to return to the library. She is followed by a stranger, who later introduces himself as Wilbur Whateley (Stockwell). Whateley asks to see the book, and though it is closing time and the book is reputedly the only copy in existence, Nancy allows it under the influence of Whateley's hypnotic gaze.
Whateley's perusal of the book is cut short by Armitage, who has researched Wilbur's family's sordid past. His warnings about the Whateleys go unheeded by Nancy, who decides to give Wilbur a ride back to Dunwich after he misses his train, perhaps purposely. At a gas station on the outskirts of town, Nancy first encounters the ill-esteem in which the locals hold Wilbur.
Once back at the Whateley house, she meets Old Whateley (Jaffe), Wilbur's grandfather. Her car is then disabled and she is drugged by the younger Whateley. She decides under the influence of hypnosis and drugs to spend the weekend, and does not change her mind when Armitage and her classmate arrive from Arkham the next morning. The duo does not abandon Nancy, however. They investigate further and discover that Wilbur's mother, Lavinia (Joanna Moore Jordan) is still alive and in an asylum. The town doctor, Cory (Bochner) informs Armitage that Lavinia delivered twins when Wilbur was born, but one was stillborn, though he was not there for the delivery and never saw the body. The childbirth was very traumatic and Lavina "lost her mind" during it, and nearly died.
In the meantime, on the advice of the locals, Nancy's classmate enters the Whateley house looking for Nancy. She opens a locked door, and releases a creature (which we are led to believe is Wilbur's monstrous twin) that kills her and escapes. Upon Wilbur and Nancy's return, Old Whateley confronts them about the presence of the missing girl's car, and in the ensuing argument, falls down the stairs and dies. Wilbur takes him to the local cemetery for a decidedly non-Christian burial, but the local townsfolk vociferously stop him.
As the story draws to a close, a rapid unfolding of events occurs. Wilbur's twin runs amok in Dunwich, killing several people. Lavinia dies in the asylum, looking much older than her 45 years. The Whateley estate burns down in a conflagration that may have to do with a pagan ritual. At the top of a coastal cliff, Wilbur prepares Nancy for sacrifice to bring back what he calls "The Old Ones." He is struck by lightning in the ritual and falls in a ball of fire into the sea.
In the closing scene, the physically unharmed Nancy is escorted off the sacrificial altar by Armitage and Cory, who calm her by stating that the Whateley line has ended. Just before the credits, it is revealed that Nancy is pregnant, presumably with Wilbur's ill-conceived child.
- This is director Daniel Haller#s 2nd Lovecraft feature. In 1965, he made the a version of 'The Colour Out of Space' starring Boris Karloff called 'Die,Monster,Die!'.
- Peter Fonda was offered Dean Stockwell's role initially.
- The character of Wilbur Whateley differs greatly from the book where he is a half human goatish giant. His eventual demise is very different too.