Written by: Ron Cotton on April 7th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: (Out of Mind) 1998 / (The Music of Erich Zann) 1980 / (The Outsider) 1994
Directors: Raymond Saint-Jean, John Strysik, Aaron Vanek
Cast: Christopher Heyerdahl, Peter Farbridge, Art Kitching, Michael Sinelnikoff, Robert Ruevain, Robert Alexander, Darryl Warren, Herb Lichtenstein, Kathryn Grady, David David Katzman, Rebecca Masternak
DVD released: 2005
Approximate running time: Out of Mind – 56 minutes / The Music of Erich Zann – 18 Minutes / The Outsider – 6 Minutes / My Necronomicon – 2 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Out of Mind – 1.66:1 Letterbox / The Music of Erich Zann, The Outsider, and My Necronomicon – 1.33:1 Full-Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Lurker Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC (DVD-5)
Retail Price: $19.95
Historically, H. P. Lovecraft has been a major influence on all aspects of horror, unfortunately, only after Lovecraft’s death had he received world-renown recognition. Most notably, H. P. Lovecraft wrote short stories for Weird Tales and wrote with contemporaries like Robert E. Howard and Robert Bloch.
Film enthusiasts who’ve heard the name H. P. Lovecraft before will recall the humorous horror movies derived such as Re-Animator and the Evil Dead Series. Another analogy drawn between the writer and films could be the hay day of the 60’s and 70’s such as AIP’s Die, Monster, Die! or The Curse of the Crimson Altar. Although these movies scratch the surface, to purists of Lovecraft, these interpretations are clearly not representative of his writings and creations. The H. P. Lovecraft Collection strives to compile works that could be termed “official” with a more serious slant. From my estimation, Lurker Films obviously accomplished this goal with a wealth of short films and extras.
Director Raymond Saint-Jean of Out of Mind was determined to craft a different movie of Lovecraft, instead of simply adapting one of his books. Unifying the notes, letters, and accounted dreams of Lovecraft, Out of Mind becomes a puzzle-like dream that truly captures the essence of Lovecraft. Although Out of Mind was filmed in Canada rather than Providence, Rhode Island; the locations chosen were from the 1920’s to give it the ambiance of a Lovecraft tale.
In Out of Mind, Christopher Heyerdahl’s performance as H. P. Lovecraft is captivating. His attention to dialog, his breathing and vocal patterns, his drawn-in lips culminated into perfectly capturing the “heartbeat” of Lovecraft on the screen. Some even believed that the black and white scenes were truly the footage of H. P. Lovecraft himself. Heyerdahl’s performance is so iconic to Lovecraft’s visage, Lurker Films placed it on the cover of this volume.
The Music of Erich Zann begins with Charles Dexter Ward (Robert Ruevain) reflecting on how he couldn’t recall where he heard the music of Erich Zann (Robert Alexander). Ward awakes in his room hearing enchanting music upstairs, sounding unlike anything he’s ever heard. One night, Ward corners Zann, pleading to sit in on one of his amazing performances. Once upstairs, Ward can’t keep himself still as he discovers a secret best left unknown. The Outsider is literally crafted from H. P. Lovecraft’s tale and My Necronomicon is an extremely short film demonstrating the devastating effects of this damning book.
When the DVD is first inserted, even during the FBI Warning, the eerie piano music plays. This cue gave me the giddy thrill of anticipating what was coming next on this disc. The animation leading up to the main menu is interesting without being long-winded. Some of the sub-menus are amateurish, appearing to be made with inexpensive DVD mastering software. For some strange reason, the Nameless trailer had troubles loading on one unit while other units had no trouble loading this. Overall, however, Lurker Films went beyond the call of duty and loaded this disc with material without loss of video and audio quality.
The keep case has the air of professionalism, keeping with the layout and feel of the prior and future Lurker Films volumes. To my surprise, inside is a eight page booklet, compiled essays of each feature written by either the director themselves or directors of other Lovecraftian films. The booklet contains no illustrations, only text that vacillates between insightful to humdrum. Needless to say, this insert contains numerous spoilers of both the feature and the shorts.
All the shorts featured in Volume 3 were derived from celluloid. Out of Mind was filmed in Super 16mm, while My Necronomicon, The Outsider, and The Music from Erich Zann is 16mm. Of all these films, My Necronomicon and The Outsider have extremely heavy grain. Out of Mind appears to have a lower than average constrast. Surprisingly, The Music of Erich Zann has held up quite well over the years, even when filmed in such low lighting.
In the first commentary track of Out of Mind, some pauses occur between the scenes. Director Raymond Saint-Jean’s thick French accent is at times hard to decipher. Most notably, the director comments that in horror or science fiction, the largest obstacle is for the actors to take things seriously. Christopher Heyerdahl also expounds on his experiences on-set. The alternate track, made six years later reflects back on this film including cinematographer Serge Ladouceur.
Interview with Zann is a twelve minute featurette with the Director, Cinematographer, and Music Composer. Director John Strysik knew out of all the Lovecraftian stories, The Music of Erich Zann was the most achievable with his limited resources. Composer Andre Caporaso worked for a day with the basic melody, yet taking months to create the final composition. Micheal Goi inspired by the movie Days of Heaven learned about a new film stock that needed very little light, allowing them to use bug lights as their primary source. As a result of all this synergy, The Music of Erich Zann was nominated for a Student Academy Award.
Included is the third installment of the Lovecraft scholar and literary critic S. T. Joshi covers vast ground in answering each question with name dropping and reliable references backing up his beliefs. On the correspondence of Lovecraft, Joshi states that these letters should be considered literary documents of their own right. In the story The Music of Erich Zann, Zann should be playing a Viol, which is an instrument akin to the cello. Finally, Joshi answers questions about The Outsider and Lovecraft’s fascination of cats.
Overall, Lurker Films has exceeded my expectations in presenting these short films that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. The numerous commentaries, extra features, booklet, and interviews are sure to keep ones interest for an entire evening. For Lovecraft fans, this volume is a necessity to own. For those who know not of this genius, Volume 3: Out of Mind could be a gateway for those wishing to learn more. For those looking for a less intellectual horror filled with blood and gore, look elsewhere.
For more information about The H.P. Lovecraft Collection Volume 3: Out of Mind visit Lurker Films here.