Reviews of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927) and related work
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927)
H. P. Lovecraft (writer).
It could and should have been polished, but it’s rich. Lovecraft even takes pains to undergird his usual multigenerational retrophilic fantasy by having the wizard Curwen manipulate his own bloodline for a practical reason: his own future physical resurrection. It’s James’s “A View from a Hill” (1925) blown up to a massive scale. The indirect style of narration, isolating the reader from the most macabre scenes, is unusually well executed here, though not perfectly. There are wonderful details, including the antiquarian backdrop and what happens when Willett drops his torch. The sudden disappearance of the bungalow dungeon or “bungeon” is disappointing, perfunctorily framed in the Todorovian fantastic like much of James’s work, even when that makes no sense.
References here: A Cure for Wellness (2016).
Not worth watching for the Lovecraft alone.
Seen in 2016.
The 1918 part of the novella’s plot is forward-ported to a private detective agency in the style of the novella’s 1941 publication date, but in a contemporary—ca. 1991—setting with speaking parts for women. The 1771 part of the plot is left in place.
Lax direction, editing and acting; only Chris Sarandon does any impressive work in front of the camera, and that only in bits. Awkward attempts at comedy, especially Lonnie and Holly listening at the door, and “Doctor Ash” trying out his goofy beard. The pacing is good and the animatronic effects work is passable, but the dungeon crawl feels contrived. The biggest problem is with the whole-hearted embrace of artificiality and theatricality—including a 555 number—rejecting a more naturalistic or faithful approach, seemingly out of hand. Lovecraft’s original supernatural premises are tweaked for cartoonish amounts of blood.