Friday, July 30, 2010

Del Toro and Cameron to do Lovecraft

It has been common knowledge for a while now that Guilermo del Toro wanted to make a movie out of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. The last I heard it was a "sometime in the next decade" project. We don't have to wait that long, it turns out. Del Toro just announced they want to start filming next year. He'll be directing and James Cameron will be producing (HT Evan).

Lovecraft has never been made into a really blockbuster movie before. There have been lots of allusions to his work in other work (sorry Batman fans - Arkham Asylum was ripped off of Lovecraft decades after its first appearance), and there have certainly been many minor projects, but nothing big. What's ironic is that Lovecraft didn't think much of the prospect of his stories being made into movies anyway. We know because he was interviewed by the W.P.A. in 1933. He shared:

"Hollywood does not interest me in the slightest. My work is certainly too arcane and I hope too frightening to be consumed with sarsaparillas and popped corn. There is also the additional challenge that my work is consistently set in the present or recent past, with apocalyptic implications. It would be financially prohibitive to keep updating a film as time went by the same way I can simply change dates in my tales upon republication. There are films and there are books. One cannot make a film of a book. The forms have distinctly different dimensions. I have no expectation that any of the stories I have written will be adapted for the movies in my lifetime."
Not a very out of the box thinker, huh? Something tells me this won't hold up del Toro and Cameron. Nevertheless, Lovecraft did hold out some hope. He continued: "Perhaps one day when the world is very different in the distant future." None of this should be confused with a Victorian suspicion of movies on Lovecraft's part. My understanding is that he loved going to movies - particularly science fiction films - and that he got considerable inspiration from them.

S.T. Joshi, a Lovecraft sholar, has argued that At The Mountains of Madness represented an attempt by Lovecraft to take his earlier "Cthulu Mythos", which was largely supernatural in the tradition of more classic horror, and present it in a more science-fiction framework. The novella was written in 1931. This was a time of a change in perspective in Lovecraft in many ways. This was the period when Lovecraft began to get disillusioned with the presidency of Herbert Hoover. In this period he would declare himself as a staunch supporter of the New Deal, and an advocate of technocracy, economic planning, and even fascism.

One more Lovecraft link - I stumbled across this H.P. Lovecraft Podcast recently. Every week, Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer read selections from a Lovecraft story, discuss the plot, and discuss influences and criticism of the story. I've only listened to two so far - they're worth checking out.

I'm still working through Lovecraft's stories, as well as continuing to develop notes, outlines, and thoughts on Lovecraft's political economy that some day I may do something with. Right now I'm reading Shadow over Innsmouth, and so far my favorite story is either the Call of Cthulu or Shadow Out of Time. These are longer; Dagon is an excellent shorter story (this was actually the first Lovecraft story I ever read).
UPDATE: This was way to good not to repost. Xenophon tracked down a letter between Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. In it, Smith writes: "I have caught my second cold of the season, and am still laid up with it. I can sympathize with your reaction to the New England winter — our chill nights, though they haven't gone below 35º, are about my idea of hell. Only a bunch of sadistic demons would want to pass — and enforce — a Prohibition law in a climate like that of the U.S. "


  1. What did Lovecraft think of Prohibition?

  2. An interesting question. I don't know off hand, but I would guess he would have opposed it. He despised Victorian moralizing and he did not profit from bootlegging, and since those are the two prime candidates for supporting prohibition I would imagine he wasn't sympathetic.

    He apparently wrote a poem called "On Prohibition", but I can't access the text of it anywhere. That might provide insight.

  3. The reason I ask is due to the deep connection between Prohibition and less than savory attitudes towards non-WASPs.

  4. I did find this (at the very least, one of Lovecraft's friends was no fan of Prohibition):

  5. Wiki bio on Smith (who I had never heard of before today):

  6. Just to clarify, the WPA video is a fake and even the quote isn't from Lovecraft.

    Donovan K. Loucks
    Webmaster, The H. P. Lovecraft Archive

  7. So I've discovered recently. Thanks Donovan.


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