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I Bet You Didn't See... The Call of Cthulhu


This is part of the "Lovecraft Series".

In 1925, a young man (Matt Foyer) is sorting through his Great-Uncle's effects after his death and discovers that his relative was exploring a series of unexplained and bizarre phenomena pertaining to the dreams of a local artist. Once the artist recovers from his "fever", he doesn't remember anything about his dreams or his conversations with the old man.

David Mersault as Insp. Legrasse on his raid.

The old man, George Angell (Ralph Lucas), documented his research and interviews, and we are transported back to 1908, to a convention of archaeology where a New Orleans inspector, Inspector Legrasse (David Mersault), asks about an unusual and unique icon he found on a raid on cult ritual in the Louisiana swamps. We are taken back to his raid and the information he learns. However, none of the professors he is talking to, including Angell, seems prepared to speak.

Matt Foyer as "the man" telling the story

Our protagonist, who is only known to us as "the man" in the credits, starts to continue this line of inquiry, only to end up at a dead-end. That is, until he reads about derelict ships turning up in New Zealand holding the same kind of icon described by his great-uncle. He travels out there and tries to find out more, before finding out that the only survivor had returned to his native Norwegian home. Upon discovering the fate of the sailor, the sailor's wife gives him her husband's diary, telling the whole story of the strange island city of R'lyeh, and the horror that dwells there.

This film was produced and made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS), of which I am a proud member. This is one of the most iconic stories written by Lovecraft, and the Great Old God Cthulhu is a name that people know more than they know its origin. The film was intentionally shot using techniques and styles as close to those that would have been used in the 1920's as possible. Being only 47minutes long, the story was concise and well portrayed, as one might expect from fanatical fans and society founders Andrew Leman and Sean Branney.

Noah Wagner as Captain Collins

In the "Behind the Scenes" footage on the DVD, you learn so much about the fantastic effort put in. Most of the sets were tiny, oddly coloured and made of scrap materials. Miniature models and sets were superbly used, as was a lot of forced perspective. The cheaper, cardboard sets and use of stock footage from the time the film is set really helps make this film stand out as unique. The city of R'lyeh, the sea and exterior boat shots, and the establishing wide shots of the swamps were all created with miniatures and practical effects that are an amazing recreation of early film-making in the modern era. I love how Leman and Branney claimed a lot of what they came up with developed as they found out what they could and couldn't do. Credit goes to the actors for keeping up with them"

Much of R'lyeh was made of miniatures and forced perspective.

There is, of course, the need for modern technology. Green screen shots overlaid on shots of the miniatures add to the feel of an old film, where techniques were being experimented with. While we might be able to see them, at the time were new novel ways of storytelling (overlaying, that is). The make up is really well done too. Silent film actors were always made up as if they were on stage. Expressions were more obvious to theatre audiences but with the move to the screen, this was kept up so that communication of the story continued in the same vein.

The mixture of techniques, the silent movie acting and the almost perfect-to-the-original story makes this adaptation one of the best, in my opinion. I am a purist when it comes to Lovecraft, and I am very aware how difficult his stories and ideas are to bring to the "silver screen", but the love for the mythos that Andrew Leman and Sean Branney makes it a wonderful piece. I do believe that modern Hollywood could do it, but they won't do it because it doesn't sell in mainstream cinema. More independent film makers could go for them, but they should follow the same, or similar, ideas that Leman and Branney took.

"We Thought It Would be Fun"

Having said that, CBR reported in December 2023 that James Wan, director of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023), is working on an adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu. I am interested and will be keeping an eye out for it. There are no further details that I can find for an intended release date.

I highly recommend that you purchase the DVD, watch the film and the extras and you will really appreciate the level of detail and commitment there is. It is brilliant.

For anyone interested, the HPLHS website is linked here and you can visit their shop to get the DVD, if you so wish.

Directed by: Andrew Leman

Screenplay by: Sean Branney

Based on: "The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecraft

Starring: Matt Foyer, Ralph Lucas, Chad Fifer, David Mersault, Noah Wagner,

Release Date: June 6, 2005

My Rating: 8/10

A still of the Stop-Motion Cthulhu

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